SNAK STUDIED THE aerial map of the facility on the Codec. The Nuclear Warhead Storage Building was a separate structure. He would have to return to the first level and the tank hangar to access an exit. It appeared that a narrow lengthwise canyon connected the two buildings. There was no telling what kinds of defenses the terrorists had set up outside, but one thing was certain – it would be cold. Snake was thankful for Dr. Hunter’s injection and wondered how long its effects would last.
Time for a cigarette. As much as he hated the kind he’d up,winced at the taste, and then punched in the code to reach masked face appeared on the Codec’s small view screen.
“Who is this?”
“You’re the colonel’s niece, Meryl, right?”
“I asked you a question.”
“I’m called Solid Snake.”
“You don’t say? The legendary Solid Snake?”
“That’s right. I’m working for your uncle.”
“I figured he’d send someone. I didn’t think it would be you. I thought you’d retired.”
“I am retired. I’m just doing this for fun.”
“That was you before? In the cell block?”
“Well, sorry about running out on you. I didn’t know who the heck you were. I didn’t want to take the chance that you were one of the bad guys. You look like -”
“I know. Where are you now?”
“I’m in the belly of the security system. I’m this close to figuring out how to hot-wire the hangar’s cargo door. It’s got a Level Five security lock on it. No one has a Level Five clearance except for the terrorists. I assume you want to get to the other buildings?”
“Then you need my help. You’ll never get that door open by yourself.”
“I don’t know; I’m pretty good with doors. I do windows, too.”
“Mister, by the time you’ve found the security systerm, they’ll have already launched a nuke.”
This gave Snake pause. “So tell me, Meryl, what is this place, really? It’s not just a nuclear disposal facility.”
“Of course not. Didn’t my uncle tell you anything?”
“Not enough, apparently.”
“This place is owned and operated by an ArmsTech dummy corporation. It’s a civilian base. For the development of the Metal Gear. Do you know what that is?”
“I’m, uhm, familiar with it.”
“This was supposed to be sort of a final test. You know, before a formal adoption of the program by the Pentagon.”
“I don’t like it. No government has any business fooling around with these Metal Gear contraptions. They might blow someone up.”
Meryl laughed. “You’re pretty funny for an ex-FOXHOUND operative.”
“So where are all the hostages? The facility’s employees?”
“I don’t know. They were rounded up and put somewhere. Some of them were interrogated, brainwashed, I don’t know …”
“Baker told me he gave you the three key cards that stop the REX from launching. Do you have them?”
“Hum, I have a key. He didn’t give me three.”
“Really? Then what was he talking about?”
“I have no idea. But I still have the one he gave me.”
“Then hang on to it. How did you manage to keep it hidden from the guards?”
“Uh, women have more hiding places than men.”
Snake almost smiled. “Do you know Doctor Emmerich?”
“Yeah, he designed the new REX. Nice guy.”
“Where is he?”
“Probably in the research lab of the Nuclear Warhead Storage Building. That’s across the canyon, outside, to the north. Did you bring your snow boots and winter coat?”
“Yes, Mom. I’m going to find him. If we can’t override the detonation code in time, maybe he knows how to destroy the back to civilization.”
“Oh, boy, can’t wait. Give me a few minutes. Wait for me in the hangar and I’ll go with you.”
“Nope. No offense, Meryl, but you don’t have enough real combat experience. I want you to find a good hiding place and concentrate on not getting caught again until I’ve sewn this place up. Then we’ll meet up and I’ll get you out of here.”
“Look, I’m sorry about before, you know, with my gun. I don’t know what happened; I just couldn’t pull the trigger right away. I never had any problems during training. But when I thought of bullets tearing into those soldiers’ bodies, I guess I just hesitated.”
“shooting at training targets and shooting at living people are very different.”
She sighed. “Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed about being a soldier. All my life I trained for the day I’d see some real action, and now …”
“So you want to quit?”
“I can’t quit!”
“Look, Meryl. Everybody feels sick the first time they kill someone. Unfortunately, killing is one of those things that get easier the more you do it. In a war, all of humankind’s worst emotions and worst traits come out. It’s easy to forget what a sin is in the middle of a battlefield. You’re just a little jumpy from the combat high. The adrenaline in your bloodstream is starting to thin out. Just take it easy.”
“I learned all about combat high at the academy.”
“We’ll talk about it later. For now, just think about keeping yourself alive … and staying the hell out of my way.”
“You’re a real bastard. My uncle was right,” she said. “Look, I know my way around this place. I could be useful.”
“Sorry. I work alone. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you on your uncle’s watch.”
Snake could feel her pouting. She was obviously still young and inexperienced in field operations. She had no idea how dangerous it really was.
She pulled off her mask. “All right, Snake,” she said. “I’ll be a good little girl. And maybe I’ll open the hangar cargo door for you.”
He was struck by her model’s good looks. He’d had no idea.
“What?” she asked, aware that he hadn’t said anything.
“Nothing. It’s just … your eyes.”
“They’re not soldier’s eyes.”
“Oh, right. Rookie’s eyes, huh?”
“No. they’re beautiful, compassionate eyes.”
“Hmpf. Just what I’d expect from the legendary Solid Snake. You trying to sweep me off my feet?”
Snake gave her a cynical laugh. “Don’t worry; you’d land right back on them as soon as you got to know me. The reality is no matche for the legend, I’m afraid. Let’s link up later. Stay put.”
Snake clicked off and moved toward the freight elevator. He took it to Level 1, stood to the side of the car so that he wouldn’t be seen when the doors opened, and waited. He heard nothing nearby, so he cautiously slipped out of the lift and hugged the wall.
The tank hangar was as he’d left it except for one significant change. One of the Abrams tanks was gone.
THE GIANT STOOD on a glacier that jutted out over the side of the canyon and eyed the building that housed the tank hangar. So far the door had remained closed.
The canyon was the size of an American football field, approximately a hundred yards between the hangar building and the Nuclear Warhead Storage structure. The snow had continued to fall at a steady pace, covering the canyon floor with a minimum of two feet, but weather reports predicted severe blizzard conditions within hours. At the moment, though, the atmospheric state was nothing out of the ordinary for Shadow Moses Island. For a small island in the Aleutian chain that stretched from Alaska to Russia, adverse climate was par for the course. The giant wondered why the U.S. government would build a facility in such a remote and harsh location. But his was not to question the antics of American politicians and military commanders. Even though he was an American politicians and military commanders. Even through he was an American by birth, his allegiance was to Russians, for whom he had worked for years. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the giant had worked for hire. The “new” FOXHOUND was just as good an employer as anyone. At least he would see some action … soon.
A large black bird circled the glacier and eventually landed on the giant’s shoulder. Vulcan Raven reached into a pocket and pulled out a handful of dried fruit pieces. He held it to the raven and allowed it to feed. The bird dug in even though it preferred fresh carrion.
“Patience, my friend,” the Alaskan said. “The time is near. Very soon we will see the enemy emerge from those doors. Then we will join our comrades in the tank and commence battle. The ancestors will be proud of our victory today.”
Vulcan Raven looked down onto the canyon floor, where the M1 abrams sat. the two gunners were already in position inside the vehicle. They were ordinary genome troopers who had no wish to bear the brunt of the cold weather. The climate didn’t bother Vulcan Raven. He could survive for days in subzero temperatures. He wasn’t half Alaskan Indian and half Inuit Eskimo for nothing. His immense size also contributed to the way his body generated warmth. He was a walking, breathing energy source.
“I suppose we should climb down the glacier now. what do you think, my friend?” he asked the bird. The raven squawked, finished the sample of dried fruit, and lifted off to hover over its master’s head. The giant picked up his gatling gun, a 20-mmM61A1 Vulcan that he could wield by hand as if it were a popgun, and sling it over his shoulder, before descending the cliff, he touched the birthmark on his forehead. The elder shamans had taught him from an early age that he had been born with the mark of destiny. Eskimos and Indians worshipped ravens, and Vulcan Raven happened to enter the world with the shape power derived from the birthmark. Whenever he became excited, such as in the heat of battle, the mark disappeared and his senses were heightened to inhuman levels. But Vulcan Raven’s size and birthmark were not the only things about him hat intimidated enemies. His imposing petroglyphs copied from prehistoric Indian ruins. The makings resembled circuit wiring, which Vulcan found ironic. Even two thousand years ago, the ancient shamans had foreseen the coming of the age of electronics.
“Let’s go, friend.”
The raven floated alongside him as the giant began his descent.
The guard walked along the catwalk, stopped at the rail, and lit a cigarette.
The bozo hasn’t seen me. Good.
Snake waited until the guard turned to continue his patrol in the other direction. As soon as the man’s back as to him, Snake moved against the wall, out of the guard’s sight lines. He then slipped toward the metal staircase. His plan was to get rid of the guard, check to make sure there weren’t any others in the hangar, and then be ready for the slatted cargo door to roll up. If Meryl was as good as she claimed she was.
The operative crept silently up the stairs and reached the catwalk. The guard was walking slowly toward him, so Snake stayed on the top steps, below the levl of the mesh walk. He listened carefully for the sound of the boots approaching. Six feet …four feet …two feet…
Snake reached up and grabbed the man by the ankles and pulled. The soldier fell flat on his back, generating an unwanted loud clang on the metal walk. Snake quickly leaped up onto the platform and stomped on the guard’s face. A second kick to the side of the head and the man was in dreamland.
He whirled around and surveyed the entire hangar from the advantageous height. There was no other movement. He could see, however, the tracks left by the missing Abrams tank. It had been driven from its position on the floor to the roll-up cargo door. It assuredly was waiting for him outside.
Snake descended the stairs and ran to the egress. He quickly punched in Meryl’s frequency code.
“Hold your horses. I’ve just about got it.”
The mechanism in the wall clicked on and whirred as the slatted door lifted and rolled up into the ceiling. A blast of cold air wafted into the hangar.
“Do I get a gold star?” Meryl asked.
“I’m impressed. Can you cook, too?”
“I make a mean western omelet.”
“I’ll take you up on that in another time and another place. Now stay put.”
She disconnected as Snake peered into the dark tunnel that stretched from the hangar to the outside opening. It was tall and wide enough for a tank to pass through, was about sixty feet long, and emptied onto a snow-covered field. He took a step forward-
“Snake! Don’t move!”
It was Mei Ling.
“Put on your thermals!”
He did so and immediately understood the team’s concern. An elaborate mesh of minute lasers, unseen by the naked eye, crossed the tunnel horizontally. They each moved up and down vertically at different speeds. Tripping one or more would certainly set off alarms or worse.
Campbell spoke. “Snake, our intelligence from the Knee Cap reports that the loading ramp to the hangar, where you are now, had been outfitted with nerve gas. You can probably see laser trip beams that -”
“I see them, Colonel.”
“Then avoid them at all costs. The tunnel would seal off, the gas would be released, and you’d be dead in minutes.”
“You always have such cheery news.”
“Just giving you a heads-up, soldier.” Snake could hear the attempt in the colonel’s voice to lighten the tension that had risen between them earlier. He wasn’t having any of it. Snake didn’t care of the way Campbell was handling the mission. He liked being told everything there was to know before going in, and the colonel hadn’t leveled with him. There were still a lot of things Snake didn’t understand about the undertaking. If Jim Houseman really was overseeing the entire operation, it was possible that even the colonel didn’t know all the facts. Snake supposed he should give Campbell the benefit of the doubt, but he wasn’t going to.
The thermal goggles clearly delineated the laser beams. The first one moved at a fairly slow speed. It was a simple procedure to wait until the line was just over his head and then slip than two feet away from the first. It also had an erratic vertical pattern – it didn’t just go up and down; it went up a little ways, then down a bit, up some more, down a lot, up even higher … It was unpredictable. Snake had to stand completely straight and pause until the beam was early touching the floor. Before the laser rose again, he stepped over it and walked forward out of harm’s way.
The mesh configuration continued for another thirty feet. The up-and-down patterns were more complex as he progressed. The intervals between lasers also varied; some were close together and others a fair distance apart to give an intruder a false sense of safe passage.
Snake punched Meryl’s code on the Codec.
“What?” she said, feigning annoyance.
“Sorry to bother you, but while you’re up in the security system, can yo fid a way to turn off these stupid lasers?”
“Sorry, Snake, I already checked. There’s no way. You really do have to have a Level Five security card, and the only place you can turn then off is there at the door.”
“Okay, I was just checking.”
“You’ll make it through okay?”
“Don’t worry about me.”
“I won’t. I’ll meet you at the storage building.”
“I said I know my way around. See ya!”
“Meryl! I told you to stay put!”
“I changed my mind.”
“Don’t do something stupid!”
“Sorry, but this is the only way I can find out if I’m cut out to be a soldier. I gotta get my hands dirty! See ya there!” and she was gone.
Great. That’s all I need.
If it turned out she knew another way to get to the storage building, he was going to have her hide. But first, the task at hand.
Snake studied the patterns of the next three lasers and determined that he would have to traverse the closest two without stopping in between them. They were only a foot apart, and ad problem was that when one of the lasers was at a height over his head, the other one was at thigh level and moved too quickly for him to slip between the two. He would have to crawl under both, and he had a mere two seconds to do it.
He crouched, studied the pattern for another few moments, and then lay parallel to the beams. As soon as the second laser left the floor, Snake rolled like a log, cleared both beams, quickly jumped to his feet, and then leaped over the third laser.
Two more to go. These crossed each other; One was at the top while the other was at the bottom, and then they met in the lifted one leg high, and hurdled over the bottom beam.
He was clear. The icy wind was strong at the opening, and massive drifts of snow covered the field. Maneuvering through the deep stuff would be slow going and ponderous. But he had no alternative.
And somewhere in the blinding weather was a deadly armored tank.