As soon as General Ahmed walked into Camp 14, everyone’s lips went sealed. He had a very bold walk, soul searching eyes which gave a piercing look, hardly wore a smile and had a firm voice which killed the strength is many men.
Today was going to be a big day for everyone in every cantonment. Eagle Square had finally sent word around and as was their tradition, the most impressive men from all cantonments was given a chance at The Drill to compete for their way past the usually long procedure of promotion and get access directly into Eagle square which was every military man’s dream-the most prestigious part of the military system. Things like this happened only once a year so everyone made sure to be on their ‘A’ game.
“O boi, do fast na” Knuckles hastened Collins who was trying to finish up buttoning his uniform. They were on the verge of being promoted; the trio of Collins, Scamal and Knuckles had been very impressive in their last mission which happened to be just one out of their many achievements as a team at Camp 14.
“These are your men?” General Ahmed asked as he placed his cup of coffee carefully on the saucer.
“Yes sir, they’re the best around here” Commander replied, keeping his tone very firm as he vouched for his boys.
“Hmm…” General Ahmed turned to them, giving them a soul piercing look. “What are your names?”
“Collins Ogeyameh, CF-126”
“Jide Thompson, CF -039”
“Ebube Chile, CF-172”
Their response was a bold resounding one; the General nodded his head slowly as though impressed already.
“I guess you know why you’re here”
“Yes sir” they all chorused
“Eagle Square isn’t for ‘squish-squashes’, that’s if you would even make it through” he ended his statement on a rather sinister note “see you at The Drill, you may leave”. They saluted, their boot stamped the floor rather too aggressively.
The days moved quickly, Drill week 1, week, 2, week 3, week 4, week 5; the trio were still in the competition. It wasn’t really a smooth sail for them but then, they were still in and that was what counted. The Drill tested their survival, strength, wits and skill. Whoever failed in any of these was sent off immediately.
“Eagle Square is meant for the top dogs” General Ahmed had said upon their arrival“There is no space to accommodate squish-squashes”.
‘Squish-Squashes’ was used exclusively by him to depict weak soldiers. It was the final day of The Drill; only 10 men were left out of the 109 which had started. A Flu had hit the training facility, a few men were down and unfortunately, the only representatives of Camp 14 had been victimized.
“There’s no way we’re going to make it” Scamal said feebly as he laced his boot,“Not in this condition”. Knuckles sniffed to hold back his dripping nostrils.
“Till next year my brother” Knuckles added.
“At least we made it this far” Collins replied as he made sure he had securely locked his locker “even if we don’t make it to Eagle square, just like commander would say…” he paused for a second “let’s show ‘em”
The training facility which span over acres of land held Hi- tech new school Gadgets, machines, gears, just names it.
“Collins, Paul, Jide, Bassey,Ebube” General Ahmed called out. They rose to their feet “this is the end for you guys, report to your respective cantonments … the rest of you, welcome to Eagle Square’’.
While the other two left heartbroken, Collins, Scamal and Knuckles walked out with a grin. Surely, they had proved to be worthy of service.
“Camp 14!” General Ahmed called back, the trio halted “Head to my office “. It couldn’t get any worse they thought. As soon as they walked through the doors, their jaws dropped.
“Sir Black!” they exclaimed at the man sitting on one of the chairs.
“You guys had a good run at The Drill” he spoke slowly, dry gin in one hand. He was the most appraised soldier in the system’s history for the last 3 decades.
“Thank you sir” Collins replied almost stuttering.
“You didn’t make it through though… but I’m very impressed. What do you say you try out for Team Phantom” They were goggle eyed. Team Phantom? No one talked of that division of military because only the best of the best of the best were invited there and no one dared reject such invitation.
“… and now, our newest Rookies” Sir Black said, facing a crowd of about 20 people all dressed in grey. Collins, Scamal and Knuckles rose to their feet, murmurs of “welcome” filled the air. “You guys team up with Ali and Cyber. Welcome to Team Phantom”.
They managed a smile as they took their seats.
“We got a call from Central Africa” Sir Black continued, “things are so not good over there so we’re going in. We got a week to prep. Say goodbye to your loved ones because it’s going to be a looooooooooooog journey away from home”.
“This part of Africa isn’t anybody’s friend, we’re up against their finest compromised men here so stay sharp and heads up. Zone X is our target” he paused, everyone’s hi-tech head gear switched mode as he tweaked his control pad on his arm “we’re out of here in 30 minutes … come on guys, shooow some hustle”.
They got off the decelerating van, the sight ahead awful. Gun fires, explosions, amour tanks and fallen walls, it really was a war front. The army here had been severely compromised and had helped in smuggling in the control pad to the most dreadful rocket launcher on earth.
“Follow my head” Collins screamed on top of his voice amidst loud explosions and heavy gunshots. They shot their way through the war torn street, momentarily taking refuge behind fallen walls and deserted amour tanks
“This is worse than Code Red” Knuckles protested as he placed his rifle in position.
“Isn’t it so obvious” Scamal replied as he reloaded his auto rifle.
“You guys stop the whining… we’re talking control pads here” Ali retorted, clicking the trigger many times in a second as possible.
“About the controls…” Cyber’s thin voice sounded in their head gear “we’re the closest team to zone x”.
Collins tried to take another shot but…”incoming” he screamed, everyone dashed out of their refuge place.
There was an explosion which threw them off their feet and they all wiggled in air like a dropped feather. There was a squelch in their head gear.
“Are you guys alright?” Collins asked as he managed to pick up himself, there was no response “Guys … guys…”
“I’m fine…” was the distorted response from Knuckles, and then Ali and Scamal.
“Cyber?” Collins spoke into his head gearwhich was now acting weird.
“Ugghh… I think I broke something” he replied feebly
“Ali, check him out and call the medics. Scamal, Knuckles… let’s get this over with” Collins said rather pissed as he watched his now fading headgear screen to see his team mates’ position.
The gun shots had gotten even fiercer as the trio seemed to take down their targets without even looking. Really, The Drill had made them even better soldiers. Knuckles caught a bullet in his arm, he was now bleeding profusely
“Don’t worry about me” he said, he took off his headgear which happened to be the last one working since the explosion had destroyed his teammates’. “Zone X is just ahead” he hastily pointed in a direction. They got into an old, ware house; it was quite dark and dusty and filled with a whole lot of unpacked stuff.
“You sure its here?”Scamal asked, getting a firmer grip of his rifle. Knuckles nodded, finding it hard to speak.
A bullet whizzed past, someone shot at them and then there was another and another. There were more than a handful of gunmen in there. Collins and Scamal replied the gunshots with gunshots, aiming at the same direction from which they were fired. Knuckles only managed to take refuge.
“I got sight on the control pad” Scamal said as he pointed at 2 guys fleeing with a huge briefcase
“I got your back. Go.”
There was even more gunshots as Scamal raced towards the men with the briefcase in which the controls were contained.
“Let’s move out…” Collins ordered once Scamal was in possession of the briefcase. His teammates followed immediately. Just as they approached their extraction point, there was another explosion, this time they all dived in different directions. They hastily picked themselves up before finally reaching the chopper. No sooner had they gotten in than the chopper set for the open skies.
“Whew, that was close” Scamal exclaimed, placing the briefcase beside him. There was a split second of silence…
“Where’s knuckles?, Knuckles?” Collins called out, there was no reply…