Man In Black Episode 31


O-boy, you no go believe am. . . Network done come!”

His exclamation got the attention of the rest, and one by one, everyone else brought out their phones, and joyful shouts gradually rented the air. The network really was back.

They walked along behind Instructor Max, across the sandy ground with the afternoon sun bearing down on them. The hum of a helicopter became audible. Coming from over the forest behind them. Gradually it became louder, louder, and then louder still. They all turned their heads just as the helicopter flew out from over the tops of the trees, low enough that they could easily see the Star Ranges logo on its belly. It flew overhead and steadily toward the horizon, the noise fading as it went.

They followed their instructor to what looked like a training course where there were tall steel poles that resembled the scaffolding they used for constructing office buildings around his area in Ikeja, with round plates of unpainted metal on top of them. Each one looked like maybe a DStv dish mounted on a pole, if the dishes weren’t white and were flat instead curving down toward the middle.

The whole assembly brought to his mind a lollipop, about ten of them standing side by side and evenly spaced.

Each of those poles stood in its own lane, lanes which were marked out by shallow gutters, as if the place had been prepared for a hundred-metre sprint where the finish line was a row of ten-foot-tall steel lollipops. 

Instructor Max stopped in one of those lanes and looked around him, taking off his bag as he did. It seemed they had gotten to where they were going. No one needed any telling at all before they cast off their bags on the ground. Chuks massaged his shoulders with both hands, happy to be relieved of the dead weight. 

And then there was a surprise sight. Their class instructor, the young Instructor Okolo, came striding from a distance. The whole land was so flat, they saw her coming very long before she reached them.

She smiled as she walked among her students, which even now that Chuks thought about it, was odd. She had students who were mostly her age or older. But her smile was a welcome change from the single frown their field instructor always wore, nontheless. It had a way of lightening up a place as dry as this.

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“So, Instructor Max,” she said, “Are we giving them a tour today of the site before you start?”

The both of them were the only ones in uniform, the long-sleeved white shirt, camouflage patterned blue-white-and-silver trousers and black boots all Instructors wore at Ranges. But the difference was also very noticeable. One who wore his uniform like the exact image of a man in the army and the other a young lady wearing glasses. 

“Anne, I made a mistake in letting you handle their first weapon overview as a tour.” He was speaking to the whole class rather than just her alone. “What they have in those bags are anti-tanks of the highest world quality, capable of destroying the finest wartime artillery. They need someone who can impress on them the seriousness of their assignment, and you, Instructor, are not that person.”

There was total silence as the rest looked at each other’s faces, wondering what their class instructor was going to do. Chuks had thought she didn’t usually get angry, but perhaps it was the disregard coupled with the way the field instructor had spoken to her that made her look as angry as she did right now.

“You are in effect telling me, Instructor,” she said, her pretty face contorted in anger behind her glasses, “that I do not take my job as seriously as I’m supposed to, isn’t it?”

“Look, Anne, you might take it that way— ” he began, his expression showing that he cared not one whit what she thought.

“Look, with all due respect, sir, you are not my employer, and you do not control any aspect of my job, so I would really appreciate if you kept to your business henceforth, and leave me to take care of mine!”

She turned and stomped away, her nose in the air. Instructor Max, on the other hand, had a quite satisfied smirk on his face.

Chuks felt for her, the way she had been treated by their field instructor, but he also knew it wasn’t for him to speak out. But it wasn’t only him. Several whisperings broke out, but no one dared raise their voice a notch higher. A tall, skinny, guy with brown hair named Paul was wearing an amused smile. He whistled loudly, the kind they did in Tom and Jerry when something astonishing just happened.

“Keep that up, Paul, and you will wish you had walked yourself to the hospital instead,” said the instructor, still smirking in the direction of Maryanne’s retreating back. All whispering stopped abruptly. He turned and faced them, his face stony once again.