It was a short jaunt from the parade ground to the rifle range. As the clearing opened, most of them gasped, wondering how they had not wandered through that area in over a month. They got down from the truck and moved towards where the soldiers were standing-apparently, their shooting instructors.
Sergeant Bala was also there to welcome them, and give them a word of advice. Apart from being sadistically wicked, the man was always trying to show that he was an excellent orator. Deji had tired of his monologues and tuned off once the group got to where the soldiers were standing.
He had to refocus when he saw the that his group was somehow jubilant. Sergeant Bala was still talking and Deji felt as though he had been kneaded in the gut. He soon realised the reason for the exultation.
‘…Henceforth, there will be no further evictions from this camp. If you made it here today, then, you’re here for the duration.’ His smile disappeared and he looked briefly at Deji, ‘please do not entertain escape thoughts, I have tripwires all over.’ He made a circle over his head to emphasise his words.
‘If any of you decides that he/she has had enough of the training, that person should come to me. If you do not, and you decide to escape, be warned that you will activate one of my tripwires…’
He had a congenial look on his face and Deji knew instinctively that the man was emphasising for his sake. He paid rapt attention, knowing that the next words out of the man’s mouth would not be friendly despite the look on his face, he wasn’t disappointed.
‘…and once you do, you will not have time to make peace with your creator. You’ll be dead in a heartbeat. All I will have to do, is sign a condolence letter addressed to your parents. So, I warn you. Banish any untoward thoughts, the real training commences now.’ The smile had already been replaced by that icy glare he was famous for.
Deji was dumbfounded for a while. The man had actually rigged landmines? He knew it was official then, he was in hell. He remembered agent Tunde’s words to him then, ‘you’ll hate me later’ he hadn’t thought it would be this soon.
Sergeant Bala turned to the soldiers behind him, ‘these men will instruct you in marksmanship, please pay rapt attention to what they have to say.’
His work done, sergeant Bala started off and got into the truck that brought them there. Deji watched in horror as the truck sped away. For the first time since getting to the boot camp, he felt fear.
‘Listen up.’ One of the three new soldiers with the usual ones addressed them. ‘Today, all we want to do is introduce you to hardware that will be your stock-in-trade. By a show of hands, how many of you have never seen a James Bond movie?’ He paused and waited to see if anyone would raise his/her hand.
Their hands remained at their sides and Deji felt strangely uneasy. First it had been the irrational fear minutes earlier, now, his neck tingled. He couldn’t concentrate. He looked at all the soldiers and found the last of the three staring at a sniper rifle and he understood his irrational fear.
He observed the man in detail and he remembered. The man had nodded on sighting him and he had thought nothing of it. He had however been under continuous scrutiny from the strange man, an idea started to form in his head.
‘My name is Dare, my colleagues here are Chidi and Olisa.’ The man introduced himself and his colleagues. ‘As for our ranks, please do not bother to ask.’ He looked at every member of the group as though expecting a dissenting voice. When no one challenged him, he continued.
‘So, Dare is my name. I will be guiding you on firing the sidearms, Chidi will instruct you on assault rifles and Olisa will show you how to disable long distance threats.’ He smiled briefly. ‘Gentlemen, the best two shooters and one person that Olisa likes will make up a three-man snipe team. Gorrit?’
Deji knew instinctively that he was the special one. Or maybe he was just paranoid. He would find out, he determined. He waited to see how they would be grouped.
‘I need two volunteers,’ Dare said. Nobody moved.
Deji waited for all of ten seconds and stepped forward. His stomach was tightly knit and he felt light headed. Dotun shook his head, this fool, he thought and he stepped beside Deji.
‘Please step over here,’ Dare pointed beside him. There was an array of pistols set out on stands awaiting the recruits. ‘Your first training is to assemble the gun as you’ve been taught in the class.’ He waited.
On cue, Deji and Dotun started assembling their guns. After fumbling for like five minutes, Dotun depressed the hammer to make the chamber slide into place and position it’s first bullet. Deji had completed his own task earlier, finishing under three minutes.
‘Good, now, dissemble and reassemble the guns again.’ Dare said simply.
Deji was already on it, Dotun followed suit, they both finished reassembling under two minutes.
‘Impressive, you guys just earned the right to carry your own firearms. I must sound a warning here, if you cannot produce the arms whenever asked, you would wish you had stayed with the rest of the pack. That said, you two, go with Olisa,’ he counted ten others, follow them. Then he split the remainder of the group between himself and Chidi.
Deji watched as Mosun made it to the pistol range. At least she was starting easy, he, however was not so lucky. He was starting his training with a killer. And no matter how hard he tried to shake the feeling, he couldn’t even move it. He would have to be wary of this Olisa guy, every fiber in his body screamed cold blooded killer.