SNAKE STEPPED INTO the knee-high snow and moved to the side of the open door, hugging the wall to stay out of sight.
The Codec beeped. Snake glanced at it and was surprised to see that it was a nonburst transmission. That meant it wasn’t from Campbell or the others.
“Who is this?” he answered.
“A friend.” It was a male voice, deep and controlled.
“Can you be more specific?”
“Snake, you must be careful in the canyon. There are Claymore mines planted at various locations. You have a mine detector?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
“Use the mine detector to pinpoint the Claymores. Stay out of their sensor range.”
“I know how to use it. Tell me who you are, damn it!”
“Consider me a fan. You can call me …Deepthroat.”
The transmission clicked off. Snake attempted to bring up the frequency code of the last incoming call, but the digital readout simply read 0.
What the hell?
Nevertheless, if the fellow was being straight with him, Snake’s life might have been saved. He opened a side pocket of the utility belt and removed the ArmsTech Pathtracker 3000, a handy tool that located unexploded mines and bombs by picking up radio waves from buried devices. Once the detector scrambled a mine’s signal, the user could disarm or detonate the explosive from a safe distance. Snake held the machine, which was the size of a deck of cards, and flicked it on. He extended the antenna and pointed it at the ground in front of him.
The outlines of three Claymore mines materialized on the screen. One was very close, about ten feet away from the hangar entrance. Two more were ten feet beyond that, nearly side by side. He would have to get farther onto the field to detect any more.
He turned the frequency knob and pointed the antenna at the spot where the first mine was buried. A green indicator light was supposed to brighten when the explosive was disarmed, but nothing happened. Snake wasn’t sure if the two feet of snow had had an impact on the unit’s functionality; perhaps it had. The best thing to do would be to avoid the area altogether.
Snake moved to the left side of the canyon and trudged to the north along the rock cliff. The wind wasn’t as strong and visibility was better next to the wall. Could he cross the entire field by staying on that course?
The answer came when the Pathtracker picked up a series of Claymores blocking his way. Once again he attempted to disarm them, but it was no go. He would have to move back toward the center of the field to go around them, out where he would be a sitting duck.
Snake put on his sun goggles to keep the wind out of his eyes, donned a pair of thermal gloves, and set out.
It took nearly twenty minutes to make the journey to the center of the canyon. Most of the Claymores had been concentrated in the first fifty yards, and now it seemed that the rest of the way was clear. Snake felt like Doctor Zhivago as he fought the harsh, frigid wind and plodded forward. He could have used a wool scarf and a down jacket, but Dr. Hunter’s nanomachines were doing a good job of keeping him warm. The worst part was the tedious traipsing through the deep snow. It was harder work than climbing a steep hill.
“This is Raven’s territory! Snake do not belong in Alaska! You will not pass!”
The deep voice resonated through the air, carried by the wind. It came from a loudspeaker somewhere up ahead. Snake squinted through the goggles and made out a dark, bulky shape that was growing larger.
The Abrams tank was coming his way.
Snake took the scope from his utility belt and focysed it on the armored monstrosity. A very large man with a bird painted on his forehead sat in the turret. No- it was a tattoo or a birthmark.
Vulcan Raven, the shaman giant, in the flesh.
Before Snake could begin to plan a defensive strategy, the tank’s 105-mm M68 rifled gun fired a shell at him. The only thing he could do was leap sideways as hard as he could and burrow himself as deeply into the snow as possible.
The explosion rocked the world around him. He felt his body being lifted and then slapped into the air. He landed with a thud despite the snow’s cushion. For a moment Snake saw stars, and there was a tremendously painful ringing in his ears.
Vulcan Raven laughed boisterously. “That’s right! You should crawl on the ground like the snake you are!”
The voice reminded him where he was. Snake quickly took stock of his arms and legs and determined that everything was still there. He carefully flexed each appendage and was grateful that nothing had been broken or torn by shrapnel. The ringing in his ears subsided but remained a steady annoyance.
He had been damned lucky.
The ground trembled below him, and he heard the Abrams’s engine coming closer. This time, the tank’s 12.7-mm machine gun rattled the snow around him. If anything was going to make him move his ass, that was it.
Snake got up and forced himself to leave the spot where he had fallen. It was impossible to run; it was like walking through molasses. What was he going to do?
Yet another lesson from Master Miller came back to him. It was an appropriate one, too, for it concerned a battle between a man with few defenses and a powerful giant.
“Do you remember the story of David and Goliath?” miller had asked the class of trainees. “David was a young Israelite lad, strong enough, but no match for the powerful Philistine warrior Goliath. The giant was armed with a sword and a club and armor and brute strength. David had nothing but a slingshot. But he used his wits to defeat Goliath. How did he do that? By invoking the principle that something small can often penetrate large defenses. So he placed a pebble in his sling, spun it in order to increase its speed and force, and flung the stone at the giant’s face. The rock struck Goliath between the eyes and killed him. Of course, it helped that David was a damned good shot! So let this be a lesson to you – know how to use your weapons expertly but also know when to use them. There is a time and place for every offense, no matter how small, and no matter how big the defense.”
Snake smiled at the memory. He knew exactly what he had to do.
The tank roared closer as Vulcan Raven’s voice boomed: “We shall toy with you a little longer, Snake. Only when you’ve had enough will I deliver the killing blow!”
Snake dived into the snow and dug deep until he felt the icy ground. Luckily, the snow was fairly soft, enabling him to tunnel his way toward the tank below the surface on his hands and knees. He could imagine what Vulcan Raven must be thinking as the giant searched the field for a sign of his prey. The snake truly had become a creature close to the earth. But unlike his cold-blooded namesakes, Solid Snake was a warm-blooded mammal who could withstand the frosty temperature below the snow’s surface.
When the tank sounded as if was rolling on its treads a mere few feet from him, Snake reached into the pouch and took out one of the frag grenades. Holding it firmly in hand, he stood, broke through the snow, and faced the oncoming juggernaut. He was at its broadside, about ten feet away. A gunner was in the turret next to Vulcan Raven, operating the smaller machine gun. He clearly heard the giant say, “Is that him? Over there?”
The gunner fired a burst of ammunition at a target perpendicular to and thirty feet away from where Snake was standing. He had fooled them. Snake pulled the grenade’s pin with his teeth, counted to five, and tossed the pineapple at the gunner. He then turned and ran- trudged, rather- through the thick snow, moving away from the vehicle. The ensuing blast, which must have occurred in front of the gunner’s face, sent the man flying into the air. His lifeless rag doll body plopped into the snow directly in front of Snake.
Snake turned to see that a billow of black smoke now covered the top of he turret. After a moment, the dark cloud dissipated and Vulcan Raven’s head jutted out of the turret. He appeared to be unharmed. Snake figured that the giant must have ducked into his compartment inside the tank just as the grenade detonated.
“Damn you!” the shaman called.
Snake turned to the dead gunner and quickly searched inside the man’s fur=lined coat. There were two more frag grenades attached to the guard’s belt as well as a SIG Sauer handgun. Snake ignored the gun and took the grenades. As an afterthought, he went through the man’s pockets and found a key card. It was identical to the one Anderson had given him – a PAN – only this one was marked as a Level 3.
He stuck the card in his pocket and dived under the snow once again.
“You cannot hide forever! I know where you are!”
Machine-gun bullets strafed the drifts, coming too close for comfort. Snake’s ruse had worked the first time, but it wasn’t going to deceive the giant any longer. So instead of crawling forward in the snow, Snake retreated into one of the “tunnels” he had created earlier. While the shaman ineffectually shot up the snow close to the Abrams, Snake put distance between them.
Time for a new plan.
He stood and saw that the tank was twenty-five feet away, facing south. A second gunner had joined Vulcan Raven on the turret. The shaman manned the larger machine gun and operated the tank while the trooper blasted the snow with the 7.62-mm gun.
“Where is he?” Raven shouted at the gunner. “Find him! You let him get away!”
Snake had a clear shot at the turret from where he was standing. He drew the SOCOM, stood in a Weaver stance, drew a bead on the gunner, and fired. The man shuddered, cried out, and then slumped over the turret. Raven turned just in time to face an oncoming bullet from the SOCOM, but he eluded it with a subtle shift of his body. Snake’s mouth dropped in surprise. The man was unbelievably quick. Snake figured that it must have something to do with his alleged mystical powers.
By then the shaman had swung the 12.7-mm machine gun toward Snake and let loose a volley of hellfire. Snake jumped into the snow, dug deep, and clutched the frozen ground; he knew it was only a matter of seconds before he would be hit. It was all over. He would die there in the snow-covered canyon, the terrorists would launch a nuclear weapon, and the world would never be the same.
But then the machine-gun dire abruptly stopped.
What had happened?
Snake dared to the thrust his head up to the surface to look. Vulcan Raven was working frantically on the machine gun. Since both of his gunners were dead, the giant had no one to act as a loader. This was Snake’s chance.
Using all the leg strength he could muster, Snake plodded through the thick snow toward the tank. As he ran, he reached into the pouch and retrieved another frag grenade. When he was fifteen feet away, he pulled the pin and tossed the explosive into the tank’s treads. He dived sideways into the frost, covered his head with his hands, and endured the repercussion of the blast. This time he felt the heat and a bit of debris fall into the pocket of snow where he lay..
After a moment he hoisted himself up to survey the damage. The Abrams was immobile, one tread completely blown off the wheels.
It was time for the David and Goliath maneuver.
He plucked another grenade from the pouch, slogged through the snow toward the rear of the tank, pulled the pin, and tossed it up at Vulcan Raven, who was too busy struggling with the machine gun to notice that his prey was behind him. The grenade dropped into the compartment – a better bull’s eye Snake couldn’t have asked for. Snake turned and trudged ad fast as he could away from the Abrams.
The explosion shook the entire canyon.
LIQUID SNAKE SAT in the Shadow Moses director’s office and watched his nemesis walk away from the burning tank. He sighed heavily and then glanced over at Revolver Ocelot, who was resting on a couch. The gunslinger’s right arm was heavily bandaged. The painkillers had done the trick, and now Ocelot was eager to close the distance between FOXHOUND and Snake.
“He got away, didn’t he?” Ocelot remarked. “Let me try again. I’ll kill the bastard.”
Liquid held up his had. “Quiet.” He gestured to the screen. Vulcan Raven could be seen, miraculously crawling out of the wreck unscathed.
“He’s still in range,” the giant said. “Shall I destroy him?”
Liquid pressed the button on his communicator to speak. “No. Let him go.”
“Are you certain?”
“But keep an eye on him.”
“He got the card.”
“I know. We’ll play with him a little longer.”
Ocelot stood and whispered, “Are you mad? The man’s dangerous!”
Liquid shot Ocelot a look that gave the gunslinger no choice but to sit down and shut up.
Vulcan Raven said, “You would do best not to underestimate him, Boss.”
“What did you think of him?” Liquid asked. “In battle, that is.”
“He is just as you said. It’s as if he is possessed by a demon.” Much like you. I would expect no less, considering your relationship.
“Yes. I told you so. But don’t worry. I will kill him.”
“Is Ocelot with you?”
“Revolver Ocelot!” the giant called. “I understand he took your hand and your dignity!”
“Watch your mouth, shaman!” ocelot called from the couch. “It was that blasted ninja that took may hand, but it was Snake who distracted me. I could outgun you anytime, anywhere – with or without my right hand.”
“Let me tell you something about our intruder friend. In the Sioux language, Sioux means ‘snake.’ It is known as an animal to be feared.”
Ocelot sneered. “Well, I fear nothing, especially Solid Snake! He is mine now. when we next meet, I will take special care of him.”
Vulcan Raven spit. “The raven on my head thirsts for his blood. Snake and I will battle again. Of that you can be sure.”
Liquid switched off the communicator. “He is a formidable enemy. The next several hours are going to be most interesting, eh, Ocelot?”
“What is it you hope to gain from him? He is a pest. Swat him down!”
“Not yet, my friend. I still have plans for him.”
“Why do you let him live, Boss?”
The FOXHOUND leader’s eyes flared. “I have my reasons.”
Liquid Snake坐在影子摩西的指挥室，透过监控看着他的对手慢慢步离熊熊燃烧的坦克。他打了个手势，回头看着坐在长椅上的Revolver Ocelot。Ocelot的右手裹着厚厚的绷带，止痛剂让他暂时忘记了伤口的剧痛，现在他只是一心等着猎狐犬与Snake之间的下一次对抗。