"In the aftermath of the Pickering Plant disaster, intelligence agencies around the world began deadly games of move and countermove. A chess board in a thousand dimensions, and no one was controlling it. It was so sudden and complete that not even the Patriots had a chance.
"That's how they're going to write the history books."
"Don't write us up in the annals of history just yet, Otacon." Snake smiled and leaned in over his technician's computer equipment. "We've still got a little life left in us."
Otacon smirked. "Everyone wants to know what happened to us. And to the power plant. So everyone's gotten incautious."
"They shouldn't have. MI6, the CIA, CSIS... everyone is looking carefully at everyone else."
"But they think we're dead." Hal smiled. "When I plan fake deaths-"
"You go overboard."
"Well, maybe. But it worked! Anyways, they're all looking at Greenpeace."
"It's hard to believe the intelligence community can be stupid enough to think Greenpeace would take any risks with a nuclear plant."
Otacon shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah, well, I'm sure they'd be even more surprised that we did. With our histories." Snake patted him on the shoulder. "Well, the carelessness has worked to our advantage. Do you remember who knew, Snake? That we were going to Outer Heaven?"
"Tyler and Mei Ling were directly involved in planning. Whoever else they told."
"Right. Now, of course I can't trace anything that happened back then. It was too late even before we headed to Canada. Things were getting erased on an hourly basis. But now..."
Snake waited, but Otacon had started typing again. "What have you found?"
Otacon shook his head and pulled his fingers from the keyboard. "I was able to put a tracking program on IPs from both of them. It's indirect, virtually untraceable. There's a lot of email and phone correspondence to search through, but... right here." Otacon pointed at the screen. "These two email addresses are the same."
"They don't look the same. And what's all that garbage before them?"
"They're both obfuscated. The first one uses hex addressing, the second uses a combination of decimal and..." Otacon laughed sheepishly. "Um, they're just written differently. The stuff before them and after them is evidence of all the relaying and redirects. The headers have all been messed up. If I didn't know the origin of these, it would be tough to get the original IPs. The important thing is that they're to the same address."
"Okay." Snake shook his head, not worried about understanding the specifics. "What do they say? And who are they to?"
"Oh... well... I'm not really sure." Otacon shrugged. "I mean, they're encrypted. 128 bit!" Snake looked at him skeptically. "Well, it just proves they have something to hide!" he said triumphantly.
Snake scratched his head. "Otacon, how am I supposed to use that info?"
"Bluff? Look, if I do anything more invasive to figure out what they're doing, you'll lose the element of surprise."
"It would be a lot easier to bluff someone on the other side."
"Well..." Hal shifted and looked away. "I could follow them to where they're being picked up. There's no guarantee it isn't a hotmail account picked up at a library though..."
"Find the other side, Otacon. This is useless."
"Okay, okay, don't get excited. I'll track it." Otacon started typing.
Snake tapped his foot. "How long is this going to take?"
"I've got a location. As for who it is... I can't even guess."
Snake nodded. "All right, enough stalling then. Let's start this bluff. Where are we headed?"
"Where are we going, Otacon?"
Otacon turned around and met Snake's eyes. "Here." Behind him, he heard it. A revolver. The world narrowed.
"Traitor," he whispered. Hal blinked, but held his eyes steadily on Snake's.
"You really are just like the old man. More than either of them were." The voice cooled the air. "And you're just like him, too. Always did want his answers, Emmerich. Of course, I'd say that's what got them killed."
"Tyler was a patriot. I know that. And someone else was a spy, but for a different patriot. I know that. What I don't understand is you. The Confederate."
"Me? I'm the same as always," said Ocelot. "I don't work for anyone but myself."
"You work with all of them to get your own agenda."
"That's right." Hal's eyes were still fixed on Snake's. He could hear the sly smile in Ocelot's words. "And you wanted to give me your proposal?"
"I need to know what you want first."
Ocelot laughed. "Did I tell you we were going to exchange information?"
Hal turned around and stared at his computer. "There's enough SEMTEX here to kill even Solid Snake," he said quietly. "I want to know your agenda."
Ocelot paused. "I think you're bluffing." The smile had disappeared.
Otacon nodded and turned back. His eyes looked hard as any mercenary's for a moment.
"Then perhaps you'd rather have my threats."
"These two have been putting their lives on the line for peace. Our goals, Ocelot. Yet you've had a spy in my organization for years, haven't you? Who's the spy?"
Snake's eyes narrowed again. He looked at Otacon's eyes, which were even now darting back and forth, watching the confrontation behind him. He shook his head when he noticed Snake looking at him.
"Peace? Next we'll be talking about Mother Russia. These two don't need to hear internal discussions."
"They're our agents. Perhaps it's time they learned not to shoot at people they are working for. If you are still with us."
They said nothing. Otacon caught Snake's eye and nodded slightly. Snake did nothing. Hal pulled back almost imperceptibly. The moment passed.
"His signal to Snake was ignored. Emmerich has destroyed your perfect partnership. It's late in the day to start giving them answers now," said Ocelot, his voice like steel.
"Mine? They are agents of all of us. We will find them new partners."
"No. Put them back in their own business. They were created for war."
"They were created for peace."
"They were co-opted by peace."
It was quiet behind Snake again.
"Twelve patriots. Two here. Where are the others? Why didn't you bring all of them, Ocelot? Or you, Tyler?" asked Otacon quietly. There was no answer. "That's the heart of this whole thing, isn't it," he said to himself.
Snake nodded. "A power struggle in the ranks of the Patriots themselves." Snake focused on the sounds of breathing in the room. One in front. Three in behind. Three?
The smirk was back in Ocelot's voice. "Like I said before: same as the old man."
Snake threw himself to the floor. The shot rang above him as he twisted around, legs aiming for Ocelot's knees. Ocelot's second shot went astray as well, helped out of balance by Snake's movement, finding its way to graze Otacon's shoulder. Snake used his momentum to swing himself up.