There was a knock at the door. "Must be the courier."
"I'll get it, Hal. Just in case." Dave stood and walked to the door, opening it to see a fairly lanky young man in a courier's uniform. Of course, nothing interesting.
"You here for the pick-up?" asked Hal from behind him.
"Yes, sir. You're Mr. Arthur Danzinger?"
"Yeah, that's me." Hal handed him the envelope along with a twenty. "Get it there fast, okay? Time sensitive."
"You got it, man."
Hal closed the door. "You worry too much, Dave."
Dave shrugged. Hal might be the so-called brains of the operation, but Dave was the security force and as such, felt that he had the right to be paranoid. Still... "You're figuring we've got one of two conspiracies being leveled against us and you're not going to worry?"
"Life's too short to worry about every little thing."
"Yeah, if you open every door without looking through the peep hole it is. Well, you check up on the CIA stuff. I'll see if I can find any holes or inconsistencies in the rest of this stuff."
"You got it." Hal went to his computer and started typing while Dave flipped through the pages of the various missions, trying to find anything out of place.
The dates were all right, in terms of when everything happened. None of the missions Arthur and Boss had taken were outside of the dates from the wars they were associated with. None of them had overlapping days, although they all seemed to have been taken very close to each other. Most of them seemed to have been designed to lower the power of both parties involved in the conflict, though it might have only been apparent through hindsight.
An hour and a half later, Hal had finished with a triumphant little laugh. "There's nothing here on the CIA databases, Dave."
Dave nodded. "I haven't found any inconsistencies either. Looks like someone played a little joke on us." His eyes narrowed. "And we're going to need to find out who."
"Well, they'll probably email me, and I can trace them from there. As long as no one's put another-"
The phone rang, and Hal grabbed it. "Hello, Philanthropy 31. Yeah." He paused. "Really? Maybe we screwed up in what we gave you. I guess it must have been from..." There was another, longer pause. "You can tell that? I mean... Well, are you sure that was the H sample?" Dave went to the phone to press the speaker option, but Hal moved his hand away. "Yeah, that's just pretty unexpected. Are you sure that's-" The pause went on for quite a while this time. Hal's face fell slightly. "Yeah, I- I don't see a way either, if you're sure... Well, thanks for the analysis, then. We really appreciate it, and the money has already been sent to your accounts." Hal rubbed his eyes. "Yeah, thanks again. We'll call you the next time we need something." He hung up the phone.
"Well?" asked Dave, curious.
Hal sat quietly for a moment, then got up and got his jacket. "Where are you going, Hal?"
"To get a drink."
"Sit down, Hal." Dave stood between Hal and the door. "You don't even know where the nearest bar is."
"So I'll find one. I don't want to talk to you right now, okay?"
Not okay. "So then, we won't talk, you can just have the drink." Hal was a talker when he was drunk. "Look, I got some Crown Royale up in Canada. Nice single malt whiskey..." Not that Hal knew the difference between a good whiskey and a lousy scotch... "Get you drunk faster than beer."
Hal looked between Dave and the door, then sighed and took his jacket off. Dave threw him a half-smile, then grabbed the liquor from his room. He poured a little bit into two glasses and gave one to Hal, keeping the other for himself. "You want ice?"
He glanced at Hal, who had already downed it. "No, liquor's liquor. Just pour me some more."
Dave nodded. "Sit down," he ordered. Dave cleared the evidence papers off of the table, then sat down himself. He poured Hal another drink, a little larger than the last. "Go easy, okay?"
"I'm fine," said Hal, downing it.
"It's a lot stronger than the American beer you're used to drinking, Hal."
Dave poured Hal another, and gave himself another glassful while he was at it. How to get Hal to talk... there was the question... Dave drank his whiskey, then poured some more for them.
"We could get another analysis if you want," Dave offered tentatively.
"What's the point...? It's not gonna change anything. I shouldn't even be upset about it right? I mean, you've lived with it for years, and it doesn't bother you... Give me some more, will ya?"
Dave poured another glass for Hal and himself. Hal drank his too quickly, so Dave followed suit and poured again. At the rate they were going, they were going to finish the bottle before the hour was up...
"When d'you find out you were a clone, Dave?" Hal's speech was beginning to slur. His own was probably almost to that point. Dave hadn't eaten in a while, after all...
"Shadow Moses. I thought I was just Big Boss' kid before that."
"Hm. Y'know, 5 years ago, they couln't even do a DNA test on hair. Now look. They c'n see... radioactivity, 'nd... exposure to chemicals..." Dave poured them both a little more, almost spilling it. He was glad he'd moved the papers. "I mean, ten years ago, hair samples didn't tell much of anything, y'know that Dave? Couldn't tell... whether things were internal or external... didn't know how long they stayed..."
"And now?" Dave watched as Hal chugged it back again. The bottle was going to be empty real soon now.
"Now they c'n tell ya... this chemical is life long after s'posure... this radioctive isetope lasts f'rever in human hair... genes are zacly the same..."
"They can tell you gibberish?"
"Nah, Dave... you gotta be a bit more literate in the sciences, y'know... means they can tell if the hair came from different sources even if it's genticly simlar." Hal yawned. "I think... I need more of that... whiskey stuff. My glass is empty."
"'S half-full, Hal." Hal downed it. "Okay, Hal, but then no more. So, 's that mean... wha's that mean, really?"
"See, my hair," said Hal, pointing vaguely to his head. "'s got no... whassit... m, radioactive iodine indict- indic... thingies. Dad's hair's got it though. Makes sense, right, him being in Chernobyl when it 'sploded. But my hair, it doesn't got any radio iodine thingies. And I just took it now, so if dad's hair were my hair, it still woulda had the same thingies, right? So it's not my hair, but it's the same."
"Right." Hal tossed the whiskey down his throat. "Right. So that means that I'm a whassit. Like you. Clone."
"Bein' a clone's not so bad. Still make yer own choices, live yer own life. Not so bad, Hal," said Dave, throwing his arm over Hal's shoulders.
"You... you're my bes' frien' Dave, but... I mean, wha's the diff'r'nce 'tween us and them? They worked together... prob'ly lived together sometimes... Maybe even thought they were doing somethin' good for the whole world! I want to do something good for the whole world..."
"We are. We stop Metal Gears, prevent wars..."
"No... every Metal Gear we destroy... it's like in that musical cartoon, when the mouse is breakin' the brooms. They jus'... keep gettin' up. Multiplyin'. Only the wizard guy knows how to stop 'em for real. Mouse, he jus'... he's gotta try 'n' stop 'em, even though he knows he can't... See, we're jus' like the mouse..."
"Naw, Hal." Dave pulled his friend closer. "We're fightin' for what we believe in. We wouldn't... go do that Chernobyl thing... or blackout the eastern seaboard... we're protecting people."
"Oh Dave," Hal said with a strangled sob. "That's 'sactly what was in the files on us. We go protectin' people, think we c'n save the world and it's really jus' made up by some witch in 'ngland... Everythin's just... programmed in!"
"Aw, Hal... don't go cryin'..." He pulled Hal to his chest. If the guy had to cry, at least Dave didn't have to see it. "We're okay, y'know..."
"Yeah, I guess. You... you really are my bes' friend, Dave. My only real friend ever..."
"You too, Hal. Best friends in the whole world." He chuckled. "See, you can't jus' program in friendship, right? 'F you could do that, you coulda made a Hal for real, right?"
"I am the best!" Hal laughed and pulled away, looking up to Dave. "Dave?" He looked at Hal's face, amazed at how quickly he'd become serious again.
"'F it's not... you know, genetics, or social enge... eng... neering that decides who we are, what d'ya think it is?"
"I think... we all have something deep inside that tells us who we are. Like a soul, something that's unique to us. Something that no one can control unless you let them."
"Oh." Hal tilted his head to the side. "You sure guys like us have one though? I mean, coming from guys who musta sold their souls to the devil..."
"'Specially 'cause of that. If you don't have that spark inside you that's just you... You can't... love anyone, or... you know."
"I loved Emma..."
"Nah, not that way. Not like a sister, I mean-"
"Like Sniper Wolf then, right?"
"No, Hal... that was jus'... you know, Stockholme's..."
"Was not. I loved her."
"If you say so."
"You mean like my dad and Big Boss. Like you and me 'r s'posed to be."
Dave shrugged. "You don't gotta say that."
"'S what you mean. But we couldn't. We'd just be followin' them. I don't want to follow 'em, Dave." Hal's eyes were unfocussed. "Why do they gotta go and mess up things? Limit everthin'..."
"Don't let them set your limits. You gotta... you gotta live your own life, not worry 'bout how anyone else lived theirs..."
"Yeah. I guess you're right. You're right too offen, Dave... I thin'... I should go t... t' bed..."
"Yeah. You look beat." Dave was having trouble keeping himself upright, too. "Come on, I'll help ya."