[Metal Gear Ac!d] [Hans Davis/Snake] You're sick of all the imaginings and visions, because this is not a nightmare and it's not hell either. This is a laboratory, and so it ought to act like one.
You have a partner. Not Teliko, bright and a little overeager but still tough and intelligent and always hiding away somewhere beside you. There's something else that isn't her lurking like a cloud on the horizon, and you've started thinking of it as a partner, because that makes it not so entirely wrong.
He whispers and tells you things - watch out, enemy up ahead, take him out, quickly, hurry, well done - and sometimes he doesn't tell you anything, and that's somehow worse. Sometimes, when Teliko isn't watching, you call back to him - who the hell are you? - and you always get the same answer back - I'm you.
But he's not you. If he were you, he wouldn't be here next to you. If he were you, you wouldn't still have your own thoughts in your head. He's not you, and you refuse to believe that he's another you or some psychodrama crap like that, because you're not crazy. He's not a curse, because there's no such thing. And yet he's not real either, because although he sometimes touches you - snags his fingers against your hair, your face, the loose ends of your bandanna - and although he sometimes fights alongside you - whispers things, directions, instructions, holds the end of your gun every time you aim it and directs it at your enemy's heart - you can't strike out at him and return the favour, no matter how much his mirror-clone face drives you insane.
His thoughts are too much like those of a scientist in the movies, the really amoral kind. They're too organised, clean, too sterile of emotion and yet so wrought with intelligence and ideas and concepts, flashing and burning and churning, like the little dots that arise behind your eyes from time to time in this damn laboratory. And yet, beneath all of that, he's sad, lonely, childless, and so obsessed with his own mortality it's like staring into a big black pit. His legacy will not continue. There is no-one to pass the torch to, and he feels alone.
You know all this because he lets you into his mind sometimes. It's like metal. Cold, precise, hard, sharp, unalive. It screams of artifice and fakeness, and yet solidarity and immobility.
He is your mirror, your ghost. You can turn corners in corridors and find him leaning into you, staring into you, symmetry in motion, copying your every movement just to see what you would do. That's because he's a scientist, not a soldier, and he knows that experimentation is the only way to prove things. Soldiers like you were taught that experiment on the battlefield only ever leads to disaster. No matter how many times you lunge at him, he is always just beyond your reach, mocking you.
I have to keep myself alive, he says, a lot. We are the ultimate set of genes. We must live.
Of course he can't be you. If he were you, that would make him the little voice in your head which tells you to destroy. And if you had one of those, that would mean that you were insane. And you're not. And that makes him your partner.
He never leaves your side, the loyal best friend to an onlooker, but onlookers can't see him, only you. And you'd think that meant that you'd made him up, or your head had made him up, or something like that, but that's not true. It's just that you stay far too out of sight for an onlooker to see you both.
His memories, when he lets you see them, are made of metal too. The smell of the metal room where the Ritual took place, the feel of the metal gun he liked to arm himself with in case one of the children's minds struck back, the looming, omniscient presence of it, Metal Gear, like a great false god of destruction. His mind is red with steel corrosion, like bloodspots on his thoughts. He is a lost ghost, but he doesn't exist, because ghosts aren't real.
This is a laboratory. This is a playground for a scientist, not a soldier. He owns this battlefield, he knows it, and he owns you along with it. He always talks about how you and him are one and the same, that he is the real, true you that you've buried under heroic dreams and shellshock. He was the true one, he was the original, and he created you. Even Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde weren't as screwed up as you two. You fight him off, but he is winning - his metal thoughts keep rising up in your own mind, like bubbles of mercury. He wants your mind back.
But he can't have it back, because he's not you. He was never you. He's something else, he's your partner. Ghosts don't exist, and there's no such thing as demons, and you're as sure as hell not crazy. So, if there's no explanation, that means he's nothing.
This is a laboratory, for God's sake. Not Pandora's Box.
"It'll be a while before we can get back home," he said, quietly "It'll be a while before we can get back home," he said, quietly. It was evening, and the sky was as red and orange as a plume of burning crude oil. On the river, he could still see the police lines criss-crossing the streets like spiderwebs, and the tanks attempting to keep the civilians as far away from the huge silver thing as possible. Everyone was going to have a rough time sleeping tonight. Not just these three.
The nanoes were almost out of power; he could feel a blind spot pressing at the back of his head where the data of the entire area and everyone in that area and where they could see and hear with the most clarity had been for all those hours. And he was starting to come down from all the stimulants and nootropics, too. Colonel - GW and JFK - had told him his real blood was being kept in cold storage in a warehouse somewhere, but he knew better than to believe that information now. So he was stuck with artificial blood until his body managed to produce some real stuff (that'd be in about two weeks, right?), but until then whenever he cut himself it was yellow until it reacted to the air.
"What do you mean by that?" he asked the other man, carefully. "Don't you want to get out of here as quickly as possible?"
He nodded. "I do. But have you ever tried catching a plane when you're officially dead?"
"I can't say I have," the younger one admitted, laughing uncomfortably.
"Well. Iroquois Pliskin still has one last mission to go on. Getting his real self back home."
"Is anyone hungry?" came the voice of a third man. He had a mop of thick curly brown hair, and his glasses were hanging off his face at a funny angle. The youngest one suddenly realised how weird and blurry everything should look through myopic eyes without any glasses. The world felt sort of blurry around the edges - what with the radar and the stimulants he'd been able to see everything with a wonderful, crisp, clear edge and know what people were doing twenty metres away.
"It's just I found a pizza under the duvet here," the bespectacled man continued, staring hard at the clean-pressed Manhattan hotel room bed. "I'm not sure how it got here. It looks pretty prehistoric. The cleaner must have missed it or something. It might still be edible. I think it's only penicillin on the tomato. Is anyone allergic to penicillin?"
"You...sorted things out with the people you needed to sort things out with?" the oldest one said, calmly. He had the hardest, pale green eyes the other one had ever seen on anything that didn't have scales and fangs and a forked tongue - wait, that was quite appropriate for him, wasn't it? He'd read somewhere that some snakes see in infra-red. After all, there's no such thing as a vegetarian snake. They're all hunters, every different species, and what good is light when you spend most of your time under a rock anyway? You need heat, need to be able to see beating, panicked warm hearts, need to be able to see and feel the terror of something close by, something tasty.
"Yeah," he said, simply. The scales and slitted eyes in his mind slunk away and hid. They'd wake up tonight, definitely.
"How was she?"
"That's a pretty personal question," replied the young man, trying to keep his voice and expression level. Just thinking about her brought back a sudden bloom of overpowering emotion. Not good or bad ones, just...feelings. On the one hand, there was this incredible love - on the other, there was the fact that she was pretty much playing a role-playing game; he could half-hear the click of the ten-sided dice. On the one hand, there was their child - on the other, there was the fact that whatever it was going to look like, it wouldn't look like her. Rhinoplasty abdominoplasty blepharoplasty otoplasty rhytidectomy nothing was natural any more. A designer human. A Barbie doll. That saddened him, because she was beautiful.
"Actually," the third one interjected, still continuing on his own train of thought, "on second thoughts, I've fed you wrong information. Whatever it is that's growing a penicillin culture, it's not a tomato."
"Give it a go," the oldest one suggested. "Can't be a lot worse than military rations."
"Can't be a lot worse than Rose's cooking," the younger one said, with a snort.
"It's really that bad?"
"Yeah," he replied, trying to look stolid and tough, like he could endure anything. "Worst of all, she has this delusion that it's the food of the gods."
"Food of the gods...You know," the one with the glasses said, quietly, "you know Raiden is the name of a Japanese god of thunder, right?"
For some reason, that really bothered him - he felt his stomach tighten, even though it felt rather slack now he was out of that goddamn rubber suit for the first time in hours and in some rather more normal clothes.
"That's not my name any more," he snapped at the one with the glasses, who recoiled a little.
"Your real name's Jack or something, isn't it?" the oldest one said, his voice a serpentine hiss.
"Yes. No. I don't really know. It was the name...the name he gave me."
"Jack," he repeated. "/Jack./ Can't be just a coincidence."
"What can't be?"
"Guess that makes you another Snake, hey, kid?" he said, smiling like a python.
"So..." the youngest one said, thinking hard, "...so, your name's Jack?"
His reply was a thin-lipped smile and a shake of a head.
"Nah," he said, "that's not my name. That's Big Boss's name."
"I'm named after...Big Boss?"
"Seems so, kid."
"So...not a Japanese war plane, then?"
"Of course not."
"So, what's your name? Who're you named after?" the young one challenged. The oldest man laughed.
"My name's David."
"Dave to his friends," the third man cut in, cheerfully.
"Dave," the young one said quietly, still speechless. He was cut off by a serpentine stare.
"I know what you're thinking, kid," he said. "You're thinking 'Dave - that sounds like someone I'd get to fix my plumbing', right? Would you prefer I had a heroic name?"
"I don't know," the young one responded, quietly. "I mean...well, some part of me...but you're not a snake, right?"
"I wouldn't know about that."
"Come on," he said, trying to laugh, "you're not long and legless and scaly and you don't unhinge your jaw and swallow eggs whole or anything - "
"Actually," the one with the glasses cut in, "that's his party trick."
"Oh," the young one said.
For some reason, that didn't fit into his idea of a living legend. What happened to Solid Snake, the legendary hero, that redhead with the cute walk from Shadow Moses in his arms, his expression fearless, his bandanna flying in the wind, his eyes cold and piercing? His mind was currently filled with visions of Dave, unshaven and with a bad haircut, staggering around at a party blind-drunk and choking down a whole egg.
"I think I'm going to get some tap water," he said, and went into the small bathroom. He had to stop himself from leaning around the corner of the door to check for enemy resistance.
He turned on the taps, and collected a small amount to sip at in his hands. Perhaps it was the fact that he was coming down from whatever they'd pumped into him, but the hissing of the tap reminded him of the rushing of the waves between the struts.
They had control over everything, didn't they? Every citizen of this country? They had the technology to do almost anything they wanted and no-one could do anything about it? James Johnson had said something about the Patriots being an organisation that must continue to exist. Like it or not.
Well, the water had to come from somewhere, right? The water he was holding in his hands was probably pumped out of a reservoir into a water treatment plant which was then pumped to the water supply of this hotel. What happened in the treatment plant? It was treated with chlorines and bleaches and cleaned, right? But what if they'd added nanoes? It wasn't entirely impossible. They could have added nanoes so that whenever some poor person gulped a mouthful of fresh tap water Patriotic nanoes infiltrated their bloodstream and -
- well, what would they do? They'd probably relay information to them. Or track them. Or maybe they'd delete memories from their brains, memories that contained a little too much information. Brains were just elaborate computers after all. And a computer is just a simplified brain. And a computer smart as a million humans definitely wasn't out of their resources, he decided
Suddenly he didn't feel very thirsty.
He took a step backwards from the sink as a hand clapped down onto his shoulder. After what had happened, he should have been immune to surprise, but he still jumped out of his skin and the nano-infested (probably) water spilt from his hands and poured all over his shoes as he spun around. Hearing Dave-not-a-legendary-hero laugh, he cursed loudly. It just made the other man laugh harder.
"You're losing it already, kid," he said.
The younger one thought back to his paranoid fantasies about the water, which was seeping quietly and harmlessly (hopefully) into his socks.
"Are you alright, kid?" the not-a-hero asked, a little worried. "You're shaking."
"I'm not shaking!" he snapped, hearing himself speak from miles away.
"I don't like coming down from the drugs either," the not-a-hero said.
"I'm alright!" he screamed, and jolted as the other man grabbed his arm.
The batteries in the nanoes in his bloodstream must have used up their last kick of power, because for a second, the Soliton radar flickered into life, brighter and bolder and bigger than it was supposed to be. It normally sat just behind his vision, a sort of sixth sense, like trying to recall a memory - you could still see what was in front of you, but also what you were remembering. Not that he knew anything about remembering. But now it took up all of his vision and obscured it. His hearing reduced to a deafening white noise, the noise...the noise that the colour green would make if green made a noise.
The sudden BLUENESS of the man's stare burned into his head, making him reel a little. He could see people glancing around themselves in the street below, see every soldier guarding Arsenal, every tourist complaining about how they couldn't see Federal Hall because it was behind the police line, every person sitting in their house watching TV or playing with their pets, and it hurt. He felt himself crouch into a foetal position and felt himself scream, but couldn't see or hear it -
" - some sleep, kid," he heard, as his hearing blinked back and his vision returned to normal and the pain subsided. The suddenness made him reel even more. Violet dots burst across his vision, and he threw up.
He felt his abdominal muscles relax as he finished retching up all the military rations he'd consumed quietly in lockers over the last day.
"Don't...don't worry, S - David," he said, still not able to bring himself to call the man Dave because that was too normal. "It's nothing to do with that pizza."
"Coming down is the worst part," the not-a-legend said. "At least you didn't get any...surprises along with your shots."
"How would I know?" he agonised. "How would I know if they didn't give me some sort of delayed FOX-DIE - "
" - don't think about that, kid," the other man said, his tone cold and professional. "Just take it easy. You need a rest. The combat must have really taken it out of you."
His socks were soaked through now.
"I'm not going to be able to sleep for quite some time," he said, dully.
He was interrupted by the feel of a ring of cold steel jabbing into his temple.
"Nah," the other man said, in a sleek, fanged sort of voice. "This should help."
He heard the quiet, suppressed pop of the gun and the needle jabbing through his flesh and felt a sudden feeling of peace and happiness, like falling onto a bed of warm cotton wool, and his vision faded inwards from the edges, and as he hit the floor he didn't feel a thing.
For the day he remained asleep, he dreamt about snakes with bright green eyes and hexagonal scales.