The place was small, little more than a hole in the wall with an upstairs area that allowed smoking. It featured seats that clung to the walls and tables that crawled along them. The floors probably hadn't been swept for a week. It would probably be shut down as a health hazard any day, but it suited the purpose admirably.
The sat down beside each other, facing the stairs. Dave pulled a package from his duffel bag and lit a cigarette while Hal took a sip from his espresso. The silence lengthened uncomfortably between them.
Dave finished his cigarette and pulled out another one.
"Seems like we don't have much to say," he said quietly.
"There's a lot to say." Hal took another sip. "But I don't know how to say it."
Dave nodded. He reached over and tapped the ashtray with a finger. Hal watched the ashes rise and fall in little explosions of dust.
"You and me, together like that... It's a dumb idea, huh?"
Snake shrugged. "It shouldn't make a difference," he said, a trifle coldly. Hal's eyes searched Dave's face. "We work well together," he relented.
"It's just... I don't want to be them. I don't want to... to fight for justice and peace just to find out it's all about power and revenge and someone else guiding the outcome of every mission..." Hal leaned his head back.
"We aren't them, Hal. We're different."
"Are we?" Hal leaned forwards and tapped the ashtray. "They made us from the bottom up. To be like them. Then gran- the colonel- tried to remake us... What does that make us? Who does that make us, Dave?"
Dave sighed. "It isn't about... being someone or not being someone. You have to be yourself, whoever that is. You can't live if you're trying not to be someone any more than if you're trying to live up to someone else's example."
Hal's head fell back against the wall again. "Did I really say I loved you?"
"Yeah." Dave blew out smoke. "We didn't sleep together though. And I didn't try to take advantage of you."
"I know," said Hal softly. "I had some time to think about it." Hal laughed quietly. "You've never really lied to me about something like that. I don't think you would."
"I know." Hal shrugged. "It was just shocking to hear it."
"Hm." Dave frowned. "I didn't like hearing you deny it," he said, in a voice that might have been too quiet to hear if they hadn't been in this place, so close together.
Hal shifted uncomfortably. "I guess that's that then. We've found out the whole thing. Time to get back to normal, fight some more bipedal death machines...?"
Snake nodded. "We'll need to find another base of ops, set up. Then, back to work."
Otacon smiled. "Right." He drank the rest of his coffee. "Got a city you like?"
"I was thinking maybe-"
"Excuse me," said a voice from the stairs. "Is there a Mr. Hal Emmerich up here?"
A courier came into view. Hal glanced at Dave. "That's me," said Snake, standing.
"Right." He pulled an envelope out of his bag and handed it to Dave. Snake looked at the man, up and down several times, before taking the envelope. "Okay," said the courier, sounding incredulous. He pulled out an electronic clipboard. "I really thought someone was pulling my leg with this one. I'd think a P.O. box would be more useful. Well, no signature required... Thank you, sir, and I hope you remember to use IntEx for all your deliveries."
The courier went down the stairs.
Snake turned the envelope over a few times. "I don't see anything."
"Fingerprinting this would be out by now," said Otacon. "It doesn't look heavy enough for a bomb."
"There are lots of things just as deadly."
Otacon looked at it. "It could be a tip of some kind."
Snake frowned and turned it over again. "My gloves are in my bag." Otacon nodded and took the envelope while Snake got his gloves and put them on. He shook it about, trying to hear if there was anything inside.
Snake took it back and opened it carefully. He reached in gingerly and pulled out a photograph. "The colonel? Why would someone send us a picture of him?"
Hal looked over. "That's- Snake..." Hal's voice dropped to a whisper. "Is that who you saw?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"That man looks nothing like my grandfather."
The two of them were in a new used van a few hours later, driving towards Windsor. Close to Detroit yet still a major city, Otacon felt it would be a good location to hide in. A quick trip across the border would get them onto American soil, but no one would really expect to find them in Canada.
Border crossings from Canada to the United States had become more difficult since 2005, but it was the work of minutes to have false Canadian birth certificates printed for them both. Otacon had set himself up in the back, hooking his computers to the cigarette lighter for power and using a satellite phone to gain access to the net.
They each had a job to do, and they were both good at getting the job done.
"We have to make a decision on this Snake. This is probably going to be the only place we aren't bugged. As long as we're driving, anyways."
"I hear you." Snake's eyes didn't waver from the unending line of highway that stretched out in front of them. "But you know we're running blind right now."
"We can't expect the answers to just come to us. We have to find them ourselves. Who sent us the picture? How did they know where we were? How did Mr. Colonel know where we would be? I'll bet he fooled us with some technology. Don't know what it was, but we'll have to check notes from now on. Or carry cameras to give us an objective look." Otacon smirked.
"You want to make me use yet another tech tool?" Snake said with a raised eyebrow. "At any rate, we know there's a spy inside of Philanthropy. We as good as told Tyler we'd be going to Outer Heaven. So it's got to be someone there."
Otacon sighed. "Okay. The only way to find that out is going to mean we report back to Philanthropy. What if we have Tyler keep it under wraps?"
"Not good enough. Let's leave it alone. Going AWOL will show us who starts looking."
"If they're smart, they won't be looking themselves. Besides, don't you think Tyler himself will be looking?"
Snake pursed his lips and nodded sharply. "All right. But it's got to be a different faction that sent the picture. There's at least two sides to this." Snake frowned. "I don't like how we got the picture. Someone knew exactly where we were."
"I know." Hal leaned his head back against the headrest. "But neither of us found anything on the gear. Hi-tech or low-tech."
"Funny, that. And neither of us called anyone," Snake said blandly. "But there they were."
Otacon was quiet for a moment. "I've heard they can track people by cash. Dollars have sensors in them, supposedly for forgery protection. It's only the fringe that's saying it, of course, but then, we're on the fringe."
"Hm. So you think we should throw our money out the window?"
"Well, maybe that's a little too paranoid. Besides, we need it."
"We need American currency in Canada? Let's exchange it a few times on the way to the border."
Otacon sighed. "Well, if you say so."
"We still need to figure out how to play these two off each other," said Snake, his eyes continuing to scan the road.
"If it's just two," said Otacon, pointedly.
Snake nodded. "One of them wants us to know something the other one is hiding. Somehow, it connects to Galzburg and Outer Heaven."
"But we went there. There wasn't anything to see. Just an abandoned military institution."
"And Ocelot. And this 'Colonel' who wasn't who he said he was."
Otacon nodded slowly. "And a title. Monseigneur. At Outer Heaven... He said something about Monseigneur and background checks..."
"Code names," said Snake shortly. "If we had some way to cross reference that, maybe we could do something."