Chapter 19: Chapter 4, Episode 3: Sahel
Black Mamba avoided answering the question directly and said, “Hahaha, youre right. Anyone is a rookie when they begin.”
Pauls face lost its frown because of the rookies reply in awkward French. He didnt know this persons past, and he didnt know his ability, but he seemed to have a strong mentality. His confidence in this guy increased greatly.
Like he had said, a rookie became a warrior after experiencing the battlefield. If the kid lived up to his reputation as a god sniper, like Pief promised, it would be a huge boost to the operation.
“There are idiots who regress in their abilities the more they fight because when youre injured, the fear of death kills your courage. You can be a true warrior when you overcome the fear of death.”
Black Mamba laughed inwardly at his advice. The captain was a mercenary whose hair had turned gray from the UV rays of the desert. He must have worried a lot.
“He must feel as if hes walking around with a poorly made hand grenade. Like hes walking around with a pistol without a safety or a gun with a broken trigger.”
He could understand. For a commander, an inexperienced subordinate caused more anxiety than a weak subordinate.
He had killed a man with an ax when he was in his late teens. He had fought for his life against a leopard in a cave. The captain was worrying over nothing.
The fear of injury and death
He had already overcome those two before he received his ID card. Death wasnt scary, but he was scared to die without finding his mother. He wanted to meet her and ask something.
He wanted to ask about the reason for his abandonment…
But if he died, he couldnt ask. That was the reason he needed to stay alive.
November 3, 1982.
Team Ratel moved towards Mondo, north of Chad, on a Chinook helicopter. This was the limit of the government and the militarys power. The north of Mondo fell into the FROLINATs sphere of influence. After several tries, the badger finally had been dispatched to catch the Raccoon.
Developed by Boeing in 1958, the Chinook helicopter was known as the strongest transporter in the 1980s. It was box-shaped with propellers on the back and front of the body.
With two powerful 3000-horsepower turbo engines, the Chinook could carry 13 tons of cargo in its fuselage, so it could handle 35 fully armed special forces members and their supplies.
The three CH-47Ds, which were from the Chinook line, housed 11 members and supplies, four Toyota pickups adapted for the desert, and two bikes.
Mike murmured complaints throughout the entire flight that the airborne crew crawled like puppies. Sergeant Burimer prayed for a reunion with his daughter after a successful operation, Jang Shin murmured his wifes name repeatedly, and Miguel recited The Rosary. Black Mamba stretched out his legs and snored.
As soon as the helicopters rear door opened, Black Mamba sucked in a breath because of the sudden heat. Dry heat and a dirty breeze welcomed Team Ratel. After a while, a cloud of flies swarmed enthusiastically to greet them.
“F*ck, its crazy hot.”
They had only flown for two hours from the NDjamena base, but the natural environment here was quite different. The dried, dead grasses of the red wasteland continued into the horizon. Compared to this place, the NDjamena base could be considered a heaven. The base had air conditioning, and the area around the base was lush with the flowing river nearby. The regiment camp along the Shari river wasnt Africa.
“Soldiers, welcome to Africa. This is the southern end of the Sahel belt. Its a place with only dry land and sand storms.” The captain flung his arms open like a travel guide and smiled crookedly.
“This is really Africa!” Black Mamba felt as if he had truly arrived in Africa.
The Chinooks rear ramp opened. Pickups loaded with supplies crawled out from the cabin. The French military had not been aware of the need for a high mobility truck. They hadnt developed one because they had no concept of it.
Legion Etranger used a high-powered, four-seat Toyota pickup as a high-altitude combat vehicle. It had a powerful 500-horsepower engine and a wide tire. The luggage compartment was equipped with a machine gun holder, the front windshield was replaced with bulletproof glass, and the fender was replaced with a 3-millimeter iron plate. Only its structure resembled a pickup as it was a combat vehicle.
The Chinooks rear ramp closed, and its propellers turned in the air with a loud rotor sound. Because of the risk of being shot down, the Chinook couldnt proceed any further. The north of Mondo was surrounded by FROLINAT troops with a SAM-7.
“Were like a little girl who let go of her mothers hand and got lost in the Tuileries Garden!”
“We would have to do it by hand,” Chartres sighed.
The north of Chad was a wasteland with no communities. They had to rely on air travel for transportation between cities. The only ones who took the long dirt road were camels or guerrillas. Road infrastructures They didnt exist. The only thing that awaited Team Ratel were harsh conditions.
Colonel Philip had considered a high-altitude assault to approach the Bodele region. But his plan was denied by the Chief of Operations and the DGSE because they didnt have enough information regarding the FROLINAT.
The Bodele flatland had large numbers of guerrillas swarming around like rabid dogs. They would become targets the moment the guerrillas spotted them in the air. There was a good possibility that they would be annihilated before they even touched the ground.
In a situation that couldnt be controlled, they had to avoid a plan with high risks. The Deuxieme Reps Operations unit and Captain Paul had to make the difficult decision to enter on foot.
Black Mambas sight headed right. A living being had been caught on his radar. It was a human.
“Captain, a person at nine oclock in 50 meters.”
The members of the sniper unit, Burimer, Emil, Mike, Jang Shin, and Chartres threw their bodies for cover behind the vehicle. They knew Black Mambas skills very well.
Meanwhile, the members from the other units surveyed the area rapidly. This was the same for the captain. He couldnt see a human, nonetheless a rat. The helicopter had landed in a wide clearing without a hint of grass. There were no obstacles to hide behind.
“Black Mamba, what are you doing”
When Bellman asked, Black Mamba wordlessly raised his Famas with the silencer attached.
Pst— pst— pst—
Yellow dust rose from the ground that was hit with the three warning shots. The captains eyes widened. The ground shook, and then a man climbed out.
A person dressed in blue desert attire shouted at the top of his lungs as he raised both of his hands in the air. His entire face had been covered with a veil, leaving only his eyes visible. It was hard to tell whether he was a man or a woman.
The teams eyes widened in surprise. That was a perfect cover; they had not sensed anything. Then all eyes were on Black Mamba. He simply shrugged.
“Je suis de chier froid (Youve given me chills.). Enchante. Je suis Ombuti (Hi. Im Ombuti.).”
Bellman looked at the captain without releasing his guard.
“Hes the guide.” The captain shouted.
“Raise your hands and approach,” Bellman ordered as he lowered his gun.
The man limped slightly, but it wasnt too noticeable.
Bellman stopped the man five meters from where they stood. The captain spoke in code.
“The humidity of Lake Chad had risen a meter.”
“No. It has lessened due to the drought.”
“Tibesti received two rounds of rain.”
“They also had snow for the first time in seven years.”
The captain, after confirming the passwords, placed his hand forward.
“Nice to meet you. Paul.”
“Al Shalam Alaikum! (May you be at peace with Allahs mercy!). Ombuti.”
“Alaikum Shalam, Black Mamba.”
This was a common greeting in Islamic regions. Black Mamba, after recognizing it, also greeted the man while standing next to the captain.
Ombutis gaze turned towards Black Mamba.
“Did you shoot”
“How did you know”
“I just knew.”
“I almost died.”
“You didnt die. Why the f*ck is he complaining when I let him live”
Of course, he said the latter in Korean. Because he hadnt felt any threats from the concealed figure, he had only fired warning shots. He was uncomfortable with the old Arab mans complaints; after all, he had let him live.
Ombutis eyes, which had been staring at Black Mamba, thinned. It seemed as if he was smiling. Black Mamba had to guess since he could only see his eyes.
The rest of the team, who had been hiding behind the vehicle, came out with haggard faces.
“That was an amazing concealment.”
At Chartres words, Ombutis eyes thinned again.
“It is something any Tuareg warrior can do. The amazing person here is that man.” Ombuti pointed at Black Mamba.
The captain and the team members from the different units all looked at Black Mamba. Their gazes were strange. A human shouldnt be able to recognize a presence underground and 50 meters away from them.
“How did you know” The captain repeated Ombutis question.
“Im Black Mamba,” his answer was filled with pride.
A smile appeared on the captains face.
“Seems like youll do your share.”
With this single comment, the captain turned to look at the rest of the team. The sniper unit looked calm. The members from the other units still had surprise written across their faces.
Now, he understood what Colonel Philip had been talking about. Black Mamba was someone worth his call name. He understood why Team Ratel had been constructed to support Black Mamba. Their guide was also not normal. Bullets had landed right before his eyes, but he hadnt seemed very surprised.
“Show me your face.”
At the captains request, the guide shook his head.
“A warrior doesnt show his face too easily.”
“Me and my subordinates are warriors.”
Slightly convinced, Ombuti loosened the covering called a litam. He unveiled everything but his mouth.
When he revealed himself, they could see a blackened face in its early fifties. It was the unique face of a desert tribe warrior with three lines of wrinkles on the forehead, hollow and deep eyes, a high nose bridge, and cheekbones that stood out. It was difficult to attach humor to this face.
“Reveal the rest of your face.”
The guide had been expressionless the entire time and twitched at Burimers words.
“Tuareg warriors do not show their mouths to foreigners.”
His spoke broken French, but Black Mamba found it rather easy to understand. Burimer replied with a firm face.
“We are not foreigners. We are warriors who will live and die together for the time being.”
Mike added to Burimers words.
“You wouldnt eat with you rear-end during meals, after all.”
The team held back their laughter.
Ombuti looked around at the team members and his face lost its expression. Black Mamba recognized the red flag that passed through his eyes. It was a feeling of anger. Black Mamba wasnt feeling good about Mikes rude words.
“You are right.”
He didnt specify who was right, but the Ombuti agreed and uncovered his face.
His skin was flaky and white, and his lips were ugly as their layers had peeled off because of the strong sun and the rough winds.
His sunken eyes and highly stretched nose made it obvious that he was a Tuareg, a member of the Berber tribe.
Ombuti, after showing his face, then carefully wound the litam around himself again. Soon his face was hidden and only his eyes were left. Black Mamba recognized that Ombuti hadnt led a good life. Anyone who could easily deal with anger was someone he should be looking out for.
The Tuareg were members of the Berbers of North Africa. The majority of them lived in Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria, and a few lived in northwest Chad.
The Tuareg lived as nomads and camel caravans because of the harsh desert environment, and their strong warrior traits had grown from this life. Some began farming around the year, but they were few. Since the thirteenth century, their tribes had been notorious for their fierce and cruel treatment towards the Europeans, and the Europeans referred to the Tuareg as “masked warriors.”
The turban they wore was a 4-meter long cotton cloth called a litam or arasso. The litam was used to protect the head and face from the sun, sand, heat, cold, and pests. When worn, it covered the entire head, leaving only the eyes showing.
Since the time of the Joseon Dynasty, the Tuaregs have worn litams as a rite of adulthood.
The Tuareg did not like to expose their mouths and noses because of their superstition. They believed that demons invaded mouths and noses.
From the Tuaregs perspective, the Europeans had plundered their territory and were the true thieves. They had only fought to protect their family and property from the white European bandits.
From this defensive maneuver, they had turned increasingly aggressive. Violence called for ranks.
They attacked and enslaved black tribes and became a predatory tribe. Nomadic people in poor circumstances, across the east and west, tended to clarify and remember the Tuaregs grace and revenge. The Tuaregs had also become a race of warriors, paying back their graces tenfold and getting revenge a hundredfold.