Man In Black Episode 18


“Move targets to fifteen metres.” A pause, and then, “Fire!”

The voice, that of their field instructor, Instructor Max, came from their headphones, giving orders and changing the training course at will. 

All the students were sweating. The training had been going on for only a week and it had gotten to everyone already. Today, they had been training on using an assault rifle for short-distance fire for a steady three-and-a-half hours. That was controlled language for they had been straining their eyes to use an AK-47— a real AK-47, like the one police and Boko Haram used, as Chuks could safely tell from the way it shot real bullets —to shoot paper tagets from as far as fifteen metres away.

Only people who hit their targets were allowed to rest at all, and that was only until the others hit theirs, too.

This place where they had been shooting was called the “training area”, while the place they sat for lectures was called the seating area. Chuks, Belinda and some others he could recognize only by face were sitting in the seating area, having their rest. Chuks honestly pitied those who still stood there, sweating as they struggled to keep their guns pointed up straight.

“Again. Fire!”

A chorus of banger-like cracks rang out. Chuks heard no buzzer. Nobody had hit anything.

That was the really scary part about this training. Not holding the gun by yourself and firing it, because when Chuks did, the headphones they wore muffled the sound until the only indication he was shooting a gun was the way it jumped in his hand. The really scary part was seeing another person shooting it, seeing that small cone of fire shoot out from behind the bullet and knowing that everybody was only one error away from getting killed by mistake.

Not that Instructor Max seemed to care how they felt, though.

“Take your aim again. Again! Fire!”

Another volley of shots. The buzzer blared, then blared again. Two students had hit.

Segun and another guy set down their rifles on the floor and hung their headphones on their necks. Only less than ten people were left still trying to find theirs. Segun came over to his seat beside Chuks, moved his bag aside and sat, panting slightly.

The field instructor had said they were practicing this hard because he wanted to show them what it was like to be involved in a real battle, which, according to him, could rage on for days.

To be honest, at first it had seemed fun, kind of like a dare, for them to hold AK-47s and shoot repeatedly, but after going on for over an hour trying to precisely hit a paper target, they found that they were easily fatigued. Standing for hours, trying and failing and trying and failing to score a hit was uncomfortable, to say the least. And the deep scowl on the field instructor’s face at seeing them repeatedly miss such “easy” targets prevented them from asking for even a little rest.

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Segun now seemed to be a bit settled. His breathing had returned to normal. He stretched out his fingers, rubbing one hand against the other. Chuks had done the exact same thing just minutes ago, before Segun had found his own target. Holding the hot metal of the rifle in the exact same position for too long had a numbing effect on the hands that you didn’t realize until you set that rifle down.

“Chuks, how do you see the training?” Segun asked, him, still panting, after all.

“O-boy, I no know sey the thing go hard reach like this o,” Chuks answered honestly. 

“Ah, hard? Wasn’t it you that signed up for it? And it has been only a week, self.” 

Chukwudi merely shrugged. He’d had a plan when he applied online for a training course at Star Ranges, but it hadn’t just crossed his mind how strainous training to use guns could turn out to be.

Chuks noticed his friend’s attention was no longer on the students still trying to find their targets. Segun was looking at his side, three seats to his right, where the half-caste girl was drinking from a bottle of water. Chuks looked from Belinda to his friend, who looked lost in her once again. Chuks shook his head. Even when the guy was tired.

Belinda covered the bottle and set it down on the floor. Then she took her long black hair in both hands behind her and began tying it into a bun. Even while Belinda herself was tired, with sweat beading on her milk-white forehead, the girl still managed to look exotic. Once again, Chuks had to admire his friend’s taste— or longthroat, whichever it was —in girls. Not that Belinda wasn’t the kind of girl you liked on sight, but she was the sort that just seemed so posh, so clean, so out of reach that you would stop and look yourself up and down before you even approached her.