"How could you? Without telling me!"

"Relax, Hal. No harm done."

"No harm? Someone set us up to meet, did you know that? Did you even read these? Or did you just throw these at me to hurt me, figuring I'd probably find something tying back to her?"

"Oh, come on, Hal. You're the one who wanted to find out about your father."

"Someone used me. Someone used you! Don't you care about that at all?" He shook his head. "It was probably Big Boss somehow. Your genetics are more cursed than mine."

Dave laughed. "Hal, they were sleeping with each other. I don't think he'd have done a thing to hurt your dad or you."

Hal stared at Dave. "What are you talking about? He married Julie. I didn't come from nowhere. My dad was straight, no matter what your... your progenitor was."

"Do you know what Julie did for a living? She was a shrink. She fucked your mind, while my dad fucked your dad. You know, she even says you were adopted."

"You know I look exactly like my dad. You know that's a hundred percent false. Why would you even bring that up?"

"They were both at Chernobyl, Hal. Don't blame me if you don't like the radioactive waste you've stirred up with the mud at the bottom of the pond."

Hal stood up and slugged the great Solid Snake with all his might. Dave didn't even flinch. So Hal did it again. And again, and again, and again, until his arms were too tired to keep doing it.

Dave closed his eyes and took a breath, then he stood up and hugged Hal. "Sorry," he grunted. "I'm sorry, Hal." After a few brief moments, he patted Hal on the back and let go. "Let's go up and find out who was paying her, okay? I've got something that might be a bank account number," he said, offering it to Hal like candy to a child.

Hal was still breathing heavily, and didn't trust himself to speak, so he just nodded. It wasn't that he was forgiving Dave right now. Just that they had work to do. There had been money in the account all right, and lots of it, at that. The last deposit had been made into the Swiss account a long time ago, a few months after Hal's father had died.

Hal had been in his seat staring blankly at the computer screen for the last fifteen minutes. He didn't know where to go from here. "I'm dead in the water," he mumbled.

Dave's arm fell on his shoulder and his hand on the computer table as he leaned over to look at what Hal had figured out. "So what have you found?"

Hal sighed and tried to ignore Dave's proximity. Things seemed to have taken on a slightly different meaning to Hal since Dave had made that comment about their respective fathers. "The account is a dead end. The account that fed it has been closed and erased from everyone's systems, must have been over ten years ago. If any accounts fed that one, they've been closed and erased as well. There are simply no records left."

"Hm. What about the data on the Chernobyl disk?"

"Nothing reasonable. I mean, it's over 20 years old. They were doing too many missions in the late '70s and early '80s to count. The Columbian guerrilla war, the dirty war in Argentina, Egypt-Lybia, the Laotians, the Ugandans, the Yemenites, Falkland Islands, Chad... It was like they took every war and played both sides to get as much as they could. And in the middle of this, there's evidence of weapons research, biological stuff... I think they were working on gene therapy." Hal leaned back against the seat, and Dave's arm left as he leaned forward. "Chernobyl was in the section on sales."

"Okay," said Dave. "So who were they selling it to?"

"Remember that mission I went on?"

"Oh, great."

"I got a name from it, but..." Hal shook his head.

"That lead didn't pan out either, huh?"

"Nothing. There isn't even a birth certificate on Histo Ririte."

"That's not surprising. It's an obvious alias. Did you check in those databases?"

"Yup, I checked Interpol and the also-know-as in every country that has a computerized law enforcement scheme. But, nada. I'm out of leads on this one."

"Then there's just one place left. Outer Heaven."

Hal shook his head. "I don't even know what we're looking for, Dave. Why did Julie have files on us? How is Outer Heaven supposed to help?" Hal sighed. "You know, I've been thinking that maybe it'd be a good idea to just let this whole thing drop."

Dave stood up straight and looked sidelong at Hal. "You don't really want to do that. I know you."

Hal stood, letting out a breath. "I guess not. Maybe I'll think of something after I sleep for a while."

Dave patted his shoulder. "You can never completely erase your movements in the real world. I'm sure it's the same in the virtual."

"Yeah, but enough time passes, the trees and the moss aren't going to let anyone know you were there... I don't know, Dave. It's so long ago..."

"We'll figure it out," said Dave with a lopsided grin to his partner. The phone started ringing. "Oh, yeah, Tyler called."

Hal pursed his lips and threw an annoyed glance at Dave before picking up the phone. "Hello?"

"Philanthropy 31?"

"Yeah, hey, Tyler."

"You two should have called. We've gotten the interpol legalities straightened out, but I still want to know just what you've been doing."

"We've been following up on some leads," said Hal, massaging his forehead. Dave walked over and put the phone on speaker, taking the receiver and gently placing it in the cradle. "There's something pretty deep going on."

"From what I've heard, it has nothing to do with Metal Gear. You know our funding is for, 31. You know our backers aren't happy when they hear you're wasting it on personal issues."

"So it's one of our backers telling you this? Don't worry, we're pursuing some leads that we think are quite promising for finding Metal Gear development shops. I'm having trouble with the company though. They bought up a load of nuclear fuel, and you can bet it wasn't for generating power."

"So it is Metal Gear related? Good, something to tell the backers. What's the company?"

"Deeler Tech. I'd never heard of them before, but their research facilities were pretty impressive."

"I'll have someone else look into that then. I need the two of you to do something, and it's going to have to be tonight."

Hal grimaced. He hadn't slept in the past 2 days, and he was fairly sure Dave hadn't gotten more than a little catnap in the last 3... "Could you get someone else to do it?"

"The UN Headquarters are in New York, and I don't have time to have anyone fly down there."

"The UN? Is someone going to try bombing them?"

"Of course not, don't be absurd. The international community would go ballistic, literally. No, what I'm talking about is someone going down into their files to replace information."

"Look," said Dave, taking over for Hal. "This doesn't sound like it's something you need me for. The two of us need a good rest. Get someone else... That kid Raiden only lives 2 hours away. Give him some cash for it, let him find out."

"You know I hate hiring outsiders."

Dave sighed. "That may be, but to tell you the truth, we're not at our peak. If we'd known about this last week..."

"If I'd known about it last week, I could have had someone else fly in. Not that either of you answered your phone when I called about your status report last week. Where were you?"

"Okay, okay," said Hal. "We'll do it. When is this supposed to be going down?"

"Nine o'clock. This time, give me a report, will you?"

"Yeah, of course we will." Hal hung up, hoping that this way Tyler wouldn't try to give them even more work. "I was looking forward to sleeping."

Dave laughed. "Private sector: privacy guaranteed, overtime required!"

"They never say that in the help wanted section, do they..." Hal sighed and went back to the computer. "Okay, the UN buildings... you'll be in international territory, so if you get caught it's Interpol, not the NYPD. Not that you'd get caught, of course. The paper backups of the files are held..." Hal began typing, searching for information.

"It's already 7 o'clock. Find what you can. I'm going to get ready."


Half an hour later, Snake and Otacon were out of the house. Hal was sitting in the car on a side street in Turtle Bay. He was connected to the net through a throw-away cell phone, and to Snake through the CODEC system. Snake had already gone in and was right now making his way to the basement of the building.

They'd been lucky: when the renovations had been done on the building in 2006, they'd filed new plans with the city

[I'm in, Otacon.]

[Great. Anyone else there?]

[Not yet. I think I'll just find a good spot where I can watch the entrances, then wait for someone to show up.]

Otacon nodded, then remembered Snake couldn't see him. [Sounds like a plan. I'll be watching your back from here. According to my scans of the radar, there's no one around right now.]

Snake acknowledged, then cut his CODEC out. This was the part that Otacon really detested. Sitting around, doing nothing except watch a screen with not enough information on it...

His mind always tended to wander at times like these, and right now it had a lot of places that it wanted to go, even if Hal himself didn't want to go there. Like how Snake had said Big Boss was sleeping with Hal's father. Or how his stepmother had been sleeping with him for money. Or how he and Snake had met on purpose...

No, he didn't want to go to any of those places, especially not alone. Snake had stopped moving. [Snake, are you in a stable location?]

[Yeah. Anything happening?]

[No, I was just... thinking, and... well, if you wouldn't mind, maybe we could talk while we're waiting?]

Snake sighed from the other side of the CODEC. [A mission isn't the best time to talk, even if this mission isn't going to need my full attention...]

[I know. It's just...] Hal sighed.

[Starting to catch up with you, isn't it. All the stuff we've found out about your family.]

[Yeah. I mean... I just can't believe that my dad was... well, so involved with yours.]

[Against the whole idea, huh?]

[I don't know. I guess not. I mean, it wasn't my life, but... I mean, with our history, how could he have... I mean, even meeting someone like Big Boss is just...]

[Hm. Maybe they met in the business. If he did any weapons research...]

[Yeah. But I just hate the idea that I'm following in his footsteps.

[I'm not Big Boss, Otacon. It's not the same thing.]

[But Snake... A guy who could so carelessly steal nuclear material... How could I have grown up with someone so... so criminal, and not even known it?]

[You were a kid. Most kids focus on what's going on in their own lives.]

[I guess. Something else that's bothering me though. If he didn't love Julie... why did he kill himself? With the players involved, did he kill himself?]

Snake sighed. [I-]

[Someone's on the monitor. I think it's started.]


The dots on the monitor started moving. The pixels representing each person moved about, while Snake crept up behind each one and knocked them out, pausing at each for a moment before moving on to the next.

[Is there anyone else, Otacon?]

[No, just those four. Find out what they were going to replace, then get pictures of the original documents.]

There was a rustling of papers. [Strange...]


[These are about Big Boss and your father. Then there's two code-named missions...]

[They're trying to cover the whole thing up... That means there is more than what we thought!] Otacon felt vindicated. The work they'd done wasn't for nothing.

[I don't think that's it, Otacon.] Snake had opened up a filing cabinet and was going through it. [This is talking about him and your dad being together. No, your father isn't even in the official records here. They were planting this for us to find...]

Otacon blinked a few times in confusion. [So then... this whole thing is just-]

[Big Boss is in here. No name, as usual.] Hal heard the distinctive click of the digital camera. [The two missions...] There was a little more rustling of papers. [Not here.]

Otacon sighed. [So none of it's real.]

[Seems like it.]

Otacon shook his head. [I don't know if I'm disappointed or relieved...]

[You shouldn't be either one. Someone went through a lot of work to get us to believe this. You can be sure it wasn't for our health.]

Otacon nodded. [So what do you want to do about it?]

[If I hadn't knocked these guys out, your informant might have sent another email. As things stand...]

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