what_we_dream: (MGS Snake)
[personal profile] what_we_dream
Title: Dire Straits
Pairings: None
Rating: PG
Notes: Written for the MGS Slash NaNoMaChines contest (3 hours to write 500+ words). This would have been way too ambitious a project for 3 hours even if I had plotted beforehand. Especially since I only got to Snake at the 2.5 hour mark. This is why there is only dialogue by that point. It had been intended to be slash, but there was no time for that either. Or, you know, a conclusion. BIG FAIL.

Summary: What if Hal Emmerich infiltrated Shadow Moses, and met weapons advisor Solid Snake there.

The arctic sea presses in against him on all sides, so cold his very bones seem to compress with it, spine fusing into a solid metal rod. Dr. Hunter said the peptides and suit would keep out the worst of the cold, and while he didn’t believe her at the time he never imagined it would be this bad. Breathing is almost impossible, his entire torso trying to curl inwards to maintain an inner core of heat that isn’t there. He’s towed through the black water by a motorized propeller – without it he would have sunk to the bottom of the strait and drowned there.

The journey from the one-man sub/torpedo is barely ten minutes, the last stretch of a cramped and claustrophobic three hour journey. It follows a simple straight line to the underwater dock of Shadow Moses. Which is just as well, because there is no space in his mind for anything other than trying to keep his freezing body breathing. When the tiny light on his propeller finally illuminates a rock wall in front of him he has no energy to spare for relief, and barely any for the planning that needs to happen.

Hal Emmerich surfaces in the underwater dock of Shadow Moses as one dark shadow in a huge cavern of dark shadows, clinging to the wet cement slab of the dock as he struggles to keep the shivers from dislocating his bones. Eventually he finds the strength to drag himself out of the water, lying in a wet puddle on the concrete and trying to keep from gagging. His mouth and nose are clogged with salt, and his hair, clothes and the whole damp room reek of it. He claws off the dry suit and flippers, shedding the tiny aqualung and gauges in the shadow of a huge vat. His clothes are cold and bunched in tight creases around him, but already he can feel himself beginning to warm up now that he’s out of the water. Finally, from the sealed waterproof bag he brought strapped to his chest, he pulls out a smaller flat knapsack and equipment belt. The belt he puts on first with clumsy fingers, tightening it hastily and then clicking on the stealth camouflage. Feeling slightly more secure, he pulls on the knapsack, and finally peers out from behind the vat.

Shadow Moses is a huge facility. The deep sea dock allows for freight shipping and the transfer of top secret undetectable materials – nuclear materials. A helipad outside allows for smaller and faster transfers of men and equipment, all conducted under the watchful eyes of international satellites. Right now, Hal knows, a brief aerial scuffle may be playing out, a cover for his supposedly silent entrance. Taking shallow breathes to keep from coughing with the cold, he slips out from behind the cover and heads for where he knows the elevator must be.

--------------------------------------------------------------

“The nuclear disposal facility at Shadow Moses. That’s what they call it.” Colonel Campbell taps the world map up near the northern pole. The tiny island in the tiny, unnamed archipelago is hidden beneath the tip of his finger: unnoticed, anonymous. “It’s really the base of a secret government project. Metal Gear. A prototype walking battle tank fully equipped with active nuclear warheads.”

Hal Emmerich sits in the deep leather chair on the other side of the Colonel’s desk, the only other man in the huge office. “I’m not sure what you want me to say, Colonel. I’m deeply concerned our government is still building new platforms to launch nuclear weapons. But you must already know I refuse to work on any project with the potential to increase nuclear armament – it’s on my record. If you’ve brought me here to ask me to work on this project –”

Campbell pulls a grainy photograph from a folder on his right, places it squarely overtop the world map. It’s badly underexposed and full of noise, but there is at least visible a light-haired man standing in front of a huge, looming metallic shape.

“24 hours ago, Metal Gear was seized by a terrorist organization in the chaos caused by a mass-defection of base personnel. Now the leader of the group is threatening to use Metal Gear to launch nuclear weapons into China unless we give in to his demands. We’ve asked you here, Dr. Emmerich, because we cannot accede to those demands. We need you to sabotage Metal Gear.”


------------------------------------------------------------

Hal has the equipment with him to bypass the base’s card readers, but with a guard standing outside the main entrance to the building, there’s no chance of that passing unnoticed. He slips by instead on rubber-soled boots – all his gear is ridiculously bulky, it makes him feel like he’s wearing a whole other person. They wouldn’t let him wear jeans and sneakers; he can’t see why that would matter, he’s invisible anyway.

There’s a ventilator entrance on the metal platform raised to overlook the landing pad. He scuffles through it, until his knees and elbows are numb and his shoulder muscles feel like knots of burning rope. Finally, he comes to the entrance to the main room.

---------------------------------------------------------------

“Both the project leads, the chief of DARPA and the president of Armstech, were on site when the attack occurred. Unfortunately, both they and the engineers working on the project were killed in the takeover.” Campbell shakes his head. Then his expression hardens, and he continues in a sour voice. “This is a top-secret project with the worst possible ramifications. Everyone state-side’s too busy covering their collective asses to share information. We have no hope of getting schematics for Metal Gear before the deadline, and no hope of inside assistance from anyone up there.”

“Shouldn’t you be sending in… I don’t know, the Navy SEALS? The Rangers? The CIA?”

Campbell gives him a hard look; he seemed old when this conversation began, but he’s aged noticeably just over the course of it, wrinkles deepening and shoulders sagging. “We believe there to be over 1,000 troops on site now in collaboration with the terrorist leader. We would need to send in an army to deal with them, and by the time we had we would be well into World War Three. We need one man who can pass unnoticed, get through all the electronic security systems up there, and take out Metal Gear. We can help you with the unnoticed part.”


------------------------------------------------------------------

There are only a couple of soldiers on patrol here, mostly looking after the main staircase. Hal walks slowly along the wall, as if out for a stroll, and crosses the huge room without stopping.

The exit is a long corridor lined with what are clearly motion detecting laser units. The Infrared Goggles from his pack reveal a set of moving lasers slicing silently through the air. He steps through them carefully, ultra-aware of his bulky gear. At the far end he reaches a card reader, but here there are no watching guards. The reader is fairly new, and difficult to wire manually. But hacking cards for it is simple with the right equipment, and Hal has that. It only takes a few minutes to burn a card to the correct specs.

Outside, before he can take them off, he spots the tell-tale red blob of buried mines. Those, too, are easily circumvented, and he passes over the white landscape leaving nothing but footprints.

------------------------------------------------------------------

“We know the engineers worked in the Nuclear Storage Building. You should make for that; there might be information there on how to stop Metal Gear.”

Hal nods, glancing at the schematics for the room; it’s set up with multiple computer workstations and some heavy-duty supercomputers for virtual testing. “Do we have any information on their computer accounts?”

“No. That was all run in-house for security. You’ll have to gain access yourself. That’s part of the reason we came to you.”

Hal pushes up his glasses, glancing away.

“One more thing. There may be someone on site who could give you some help.”

“Huh?” He looks up, frowning. “You said all the engineers and the project leads were killed.”

“They were. He’s no engineer. I guess you could call him an old friend.”


-----------------------------------------------------------------

The Nuclear Storage Building makes Hal’s breath catch in his throat. All the raw destructive force, the agonizing, terrifying death right there in the room with him where he can reach out and touch it – it’s too much. He hurries past the long missiles, lying innocently in their cradles, and up the stairs to the elevator.

The lab floor is guarded by an electrified floor, but that’s easily disconnected from the card reader. Hal takes a deep breath against the gas, and sprints down the long corridor to the airlock at the far end. Once through he slams it shut behind him and leans on it, taking in deep gulping breaths and trying to tell himself there’s no strange smell in here, that the burning in his lungs is just from oxygen deprivation.

He stops worrying about it, not because he convinces himself of it, but because he sees the blood.

Like almost everywhere in this frozen base, the walls here are plain metal and the floor concrete. But here there is added colour: long streaks of blood painted along the walls and floor. Here and there there are sharp staccato droplets or thin whip-like lines of it. And it is all still running. Tripping, Hal turns to stare down the hall and feels his heart skip painfully in his chest. There’s a man hanging in mid-air, his face turning blue as he struggles against an invisible hand. And then, with a flash of lightning, the stealth camo turns off to reveal – it’s unbelievable. There’s no way this is real.

Standing in the middle of the corridor is a ninja, dressed in a skin-tight suit that reveals perfect muscles and the curving line of his spine. In the hand not holding the struggling soldier is a long katana, dripping with blood.

Hal stops breathing, just stops. His muscles cease up, terror freezing them solid. He watches as the ninja snaps the soldier’s neck – the brand new corpse drops, boneless, and hangs there like a rubber chicken – and tosses him against the wall to land beside three of his comrades. And then he turns.

The ninja is wearing a smooth mask with no slits for his eyes. Instead, there is one central red light, glowing at the bridge of his nose in a cycloptic parody. Hal knows that somehow, he somehow has been spotted. There’s a flash, and the ninja disappears. Air brushes against Hal’s skin, soft as a feather. He runs.

------------------------------------------------------------

“You shouldn’t go looking for him. There’s no guarantee he’ll help you – he might just shoot you on sight. But if you’ve got no other option, he’s better than nothing. He’s got a short temper and no patience, but if he gives his word he’ll keep it.”

“What’s he doing there, then?”

“Close combat advisor. He used to be one of the best guerrilla soldiers in the world. Now, he advises militaries on how to protect against them. Metal Gear was built to launch nukes and bring down planes, not defend against small teams; they needed advice on how to protect against one-man attackers. I doubt he’d join the terrorists. Doesn’t mean he’d join you, though.”

“What’s his name?”

“He used to go by Solid Snake.”


--------------------------------------------------------------

Hal slams through the door to the computer lab at full speed, trips, and falls hard. He scrambles to his hands and knees and crosses the floor so fast he gets carpet burns on his palms. He stops only when he hits the far wall, where a locker is sitting. He reaches up to grab the handle, and hears the sound of a gun cocking on his right. He turns, neck suddenly so stiff it feels like a Charlie horse coming on, to see a dark-haired soldier sitting on one of the computer consoles with a pistol in his hand. It’s aimed directly at Hal’s head, despite the stealth camo.

He’s the first man Hal’s seen in Shadow Moses without a mask on.

“P-please – don’t shoot – it’s coming.”

Behind him, he hears the lab door open. The soldier turns to look, and without waiting Hal yanks the locker door open, falls in, and drags it shut again behind him. Outside, things get very strange.

Whoever the ninja is, it’s clear he knows the soldier. The soldier who is, it seems, Solid Snake. The two fight – at least, it sounds like a fight – with the ninja taunting Snake to try to kill him. From what Hal can hear, he certainly tries. But as the fight goes on, the ninja makes less and less sense, repeating himself and saying things that don’t make any sense. He sounds like a record from a long time ago, repeating some old conversation over and over, the message getting more and more garbled as it’s repeated.

The fight ends with an echoing cry from the ninja, and the sound of the door opening and closing. Hal slumps back against the corner of the locker, eyes closed, and sighs. And then remembers Campbell’s words and straightens abruptly.

The locker door is yanked open, harsh light flooding in making him blink. His eyes focus on the pistol pointed at him, and he flinches away. “Don’t shoot! Please!”

“You said that already,” says Solid Snake, in a low, gruff voice. In the doorway of the locker he seems very tall, dark hair even darker against the bright ceiling light.

“I – Colonel Campbell sent me. He –he said you were a friend!”

“Did he? And did he train you too?” The pistol isn’t lowered, but Solid Snake sounds more irritated than mocking.

“Uh – no – a bit. Not really. He briefed me. A bit,” Hal repeats, mind running in such tight frantic circles that he can only keep hold of about two seconds of short term memory.

“‘A bit,’” says Snake, mocking now. “He sent you to infiltrate Shadow Moses with ‘a bit’ of training? Who the hell are you? Turn off that stupid camo.”

Hal does so with a shaking hand, and sees the soldier’s eyes widen slightly. “The hell are you?” he asks again, confused. “You’re no soldier.” He doesn’t lower the gun, but he relaxes the grip.

“Um, no. I’m an engineer. And, uh, a bit of a computer expert. Sometimes. My name’s Hal Emmerich.”

Snake does lower the gun now, only to stare at him very flatly. “You’re what they sent to stop the terrorist attack? An engineer with no weapon, no combat experience, and no sense.”

“I could have combat experience,” protests Hal, vaguely stung. He gets up slowly and Solid Snake backs up, slipping his gun into a holster on his thigh. Hal can see that his uniform is different from that of the other soldiers he’s snuck by so far; it’s more tailored to him, with a heavy flak jacket overtop rather than a camouflage coat.

“Not the way you move you couldn’t. Why’d they send you?”

“No one’s left on site who knows anything about how Metal Gear works. They needed an engineer to shut it down. I can do that, and get through the base’s security. I don’t know what they’re going to do about the terrorists – send someone else in later, maybe. I don’t know why they didn’t get you to do it,” he adds, looking curiously at Solid Snake.

“Two reasons. One: I don’t know how to stop it. Two: I wouldn’t. This isn’t my fight.” He sits back down on one of the workstations and crosses his arms.

“Not your fight? How can you say that? They’re going to fire a nuke at China – kill thousands of people, start a nuclear war!”

“They’ll tell you anything to get you to do what they want. What proof do you have they’re telling you the truth? I’ve been dragged through too many goddamn minefields, done the dirty work for a bunch of armchair commanders too many goddamn times, only to find out what we ended up with wasn’t what they promised at the start.” To Hal’s shock, he pulls a cigarette out and lights it. The soldier stares at him over the top of the glowing end with hard eyes. “You let them trick you into killing someone, you can’t take it back.”

“I’m not killing anyone. And I’m not asking you to. I just want to stop Metal Gear.”

Solid Snake snorts. “Sounds like Campbell got you good.”

Hal turns to the console he’s been standing next to and brings it to life with a tap of the keys. Predictably, it prompts him for a password. He circumvents it and starts hacking the firewalls. “I’m not doing this for anyone. I know I’m not any good at it. I don’t have any training, and I can’t protect myself, and I’m cold and tired and scared out of my mind. But when I think about the alternative? I would do anything to keep that from happening. If you don’t want to help me, fine. I’ll do it on my own, if I can. If you won’t help, though, the least you could do is not shoot me.” He cracks the log-on and gets into the system, but odds are the specs and any detailed files will still be protected. He flashes through the network drives, looking for what he needs. On the other console, Snake smokes silently.

The filing system is a mess, with poor naming protocols and multiple files of similar type. He tries to open one as a test, and finds it is indeed locked. Sighing, he goes back to try to find one that looks promising and crack that. His eyes start to sting, and he realises he’s sweating. He wipes his forehead with the back of his hand, and goes back to typing.

“What’re you doing?”

“Looking for the specs for Metal Gear. If I can find them, I can probably figure out if it has any weakness that could be exploited.”

There’s a long pause, filled only with the sound of his fingers on the keys. And then, in a gravelly tone, the soldier asks, “Would blueprints work?”

Hal looks up. “You mean on paper? Sure. Why?”

“They keep some in that cabinet.” Solid Snake indicates a filing cabinet on the other side of the room. Hal runs over to it, and finds it locked.

“Damn.” He bangs his fist the top; it makes a low, rumbling noise like distant thunder.

“What?” Solid Snake sounds genuinely surprised.

“It’s locked.”

“So?”

Hal looks over to him. “I can hack computer files and electronic locks. Not the real deal.”

Solid Snake rolls his eyes. “And you still think they should have sent you.” He strides over, grabs Hal by the scruff of his coat, and pulls him away. With the other hand he pulls out his gun, unclicks the safety, and fires a round into the filing cabinet. The drawer slides open an inch. “Problem solved.”

“Um. Thanks.” He pulls the drawer open the rest of the way. Inside are, indeed, sheets of blueprints. He pulls them out and drops them on the floor, then kneels down beside them. Solid Snake goes back to sitting on the console.

Hal has to flip through several sheets of paper before he finds any notes on Metal Gear’s electronic system. When he does, he frowns and reads them again, more slowly.

“Well? You going out with an RPG, then?” asks Snake sarcastically. Hal ignores the question.

“Do you know anything about card keys?”

“Keys? I think one of the execs had ‘em. Palmer, maybe. I never saw them. Why?”

“Without them, the warhead can’t be activated. But … there’s a secret to them. If the terrorists don’t know, they won’t be able to use them. And if the project leads are all dead, they can’t know.”

“You’re saying it’s not a threat?”

“That’s right. From these notes, it’s the only way to activate the warhead. The secret died with them. Well…” Hal amends, slowly.

“Well?”

“It’s still here. We should destroy these papers.” He swings his knapsack down and digs though it. Then, sheepishly, looks up at the soldier. “Um. Do you have a lighter?”

Solid Snake gives him a very flat look. Finally, though, he pulls out his lighter and tosses it over. Hal flicks it open and lets the flames lick up one side of the blueprints.

“You said the secret was in those blueprints?”

“Yes. It’s probably on the computers as well, but the security there should be strong enough. I’ll lock them again.” He glances at the work stations. “But, we probably should destroy them too.” He goes over to the one he unlocked, relocks it, then returns to monitor the fire.

“Let me guess,” says Solid Snake, from behind him. “You’re going to need me to shoot them?”

Hal shakes his head, and picks up the bag to look in it again. “No, actually, I have some plastic explosive in here.”

“I think you should let me handle that. What I meant was, you read the blueprints. You know how to unlock the warhead.”

Hal freezes, eyes wide.

“Relax, I don’t want to arm it. But you should get out of here – as far as we know you’re the only man who knows how to activate it. You’re a liability now.”

“I – I don’t know how to get out. There’s no exit route yet; they were going to have me stay put after I disarmed Metal Gear and wait for help.” As he says it, he can kind of see the point Solid Snake was trying to make earlier.

“I think,” says Snake, turning to look at the computers, “that we should destroy these. And then you and I should get out of here.”

“What? You’re going to come with me? Why?”

The soldier shrugs, and gives just a tiny hint of a smile. “There’s nothing for me here. I guess it’s time to look for something somewhere else. You may just be crazy enough to get me started on that.”

“Um, thanks?”

“No problem. But first, you’d better give me the plastic explosives.”

END


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