[Don't people still work around here?]
[Yes, there are some engineers that still work on maintaining the safety of the decommissioned plants, but no one really goes into the town. Of all the places in the exclusion zone, Pripyat is the one that no one has returned to.]
[Guess I'm on my own for directions then.]
Snake sighed and shut down the CODEC. It wasn't like he'd always had directions before. He'd usually had radar though. In this place, everything was giving off radiation, and the soliton radar had been giving out so many false readings that he'd had to start ignoring it.
Walking around blind in a ghost town with radioactive dust was not his idea of a good time, but then he hadn't really expected it to be. And while he walked, he was quite certain he was hearing someone following him. Each time he looked though, he found nothing but old boxes and rotting doorways.
After a while, he decided that there were probably animals hiding in the abandoned buildings and living in the trees. It was a good reason for why he never seemed to find anyone or anything.
It was hard to believe, walking through Pripyat, that this town had once held over 45000 people. He could see how pictures of this place had become famous: the unused ferris wheel hung over the city like some great wheel of fortune while the trees in the middle of the roads seemed more natural than the mossy buildings to the sides of them.
It took another hour of walking through the eery silence to find the hotel from the picture, and when he did, he found the doors flung wide. He walked inside cautiously as his radiation meter buzzed to inform him that he was entering a more dangerous area.
[Otacon, I'm in. The radiation levels in here are a bit higher than we thought...]
[Nothing you can do about it now. The dust is probably where the radiation is most concentrated. Just try not to disturb anything too much, okay Snake?]
[Nothing like breathing in Plutonium...]
[Cesium and strontium.]
He went to the front desk. The guestbook lay on the top of the desk, open to April 27, 1986. No names were on that page, so he turned back a few days. April 26, April 25, April 24... the names were uninteresting. April 23: Emmerich, A.
[What was your father's name again, Hal?]
[Arthur Emmerich. Is there something there?]
[Yeah. The guestbook has his name. No checkout time, either...]
[So are you going to check out the room?]
[I'm looking to see if there's an alias for Big Boss here. One that I'd recognize, anyway... Emmerich is the last entry for the day, and I'd think they'd have one for him too. Hm.]
Snake pondered over it. The rest of the names seemed very Russian to him, and turning the pages a little bit more still wasn't giving anything. Perhaps the room was a double-occupancy? It would presumably be easier than creating several rooms full of bogus leads.
[I'm going to go up to the room. Maybe the radiation won't be so high up there. How are things at your end? No computer viruses yet?]
[Uh... No. Of course not, Snake!]
[Good. Just keep monitoring the radio waves. If anyone finds me here, I want to know it.]
[Yeah, uh... Sure.]
Snake paused. [Something going on, Otacon?]
[No, no! Everything's normal, Snake.]
Snake narrowed his eyes. That was strange. [Okay. Whatever you say, Otacon.]
[Everything's fine.] Otacon cut the connection.
Snake shook his head and decided to ignore the little conversation. There were more important things to do, including getting out of the irradiated lobby.
It was nice that it was only on the second floor. Snake climbed the stairs three at a time. The staircase had an even higher level of radiation, and Snake didn't want to stay in there for longer than necessary.
The second floor hallway wasn't very bad, and the radiation detecting device finally stopped vibrating. The paint was falling off the walls. Snake opened the door to the room cautiously, half-expecting to find a dozen men inside waiting to try to kill him.
There was no one there though, just the soft light coming in through the window, filtered by the leaves of some tree pushing against the glass. Peaceful light, with a fine layer of dust everywhere. It was clear that this room hadn't been touched in years.
Papers and schematics and satellite views littered the floor like some kind of cold-war carpeting. Snake bent down to take a closer look at them when he heard a noise from the hallway. He backed up against the wall and waited as footsteps quietly made their way towards the room.
He pulled his gun out and waited. The person in the hallway stopped in front of the open door, hovering.
Snake put the gun away and growled, walking to the door to face his partner. "Otacon, what are you doing here?"
"You should have known I wouldn't stay behind while you got all the fun." Otacon shrugged as he entered, shutting off the camo suit. "Besides, I knew if this panned out there'd have to be a computer, and there it is." Otacon motioned towards the dead box of circuits in the corner of the room.
Snake shook his head. There was no point in arguing now. The damage was done. "Fine. So what are you going to do to with a computer that has no power?" Otacon brought out a little portable battery pack with a grin. Snake's brow furrowed. "Where were you keeping that?"
Otacon shrugged and plugged the computer in.
Snake shook his head and decided to look at the papers instead. Most of them were schematics, plans of RBMK power plants. The layer of dust on them was thin, but they didn't look as though they were planted here... There had to be an explanation! Just not one that Snake saw right now.
"I've got it, Snake. Logs of missions..."
"What's the most recent one?"
"April 25, 1986. That's the night before it happened. No, the night it did happen..."
"You have enough power to play it back?"
Otacon went back to typing. "We'll see in a minute or two..."
Snake nodded and ran the radiation detector over the papers. After ascertaining that they were safe enough, he began to gather them together.
TRANSCRIPT OF CONVERSATION OPERATION WORMWOOD : 25 APRIL 1986 : 11:57 PM EM: OK, BOSS, YOU THERE? BB: YOU BET. ARE WE READY TO GET THIS PARTY STARTED? EM: ANOTHER THREE MINUTES. BB: GOOD. I'M GETTING TIRED OF WAITING. EM: I PAID FOR 12 MIDNIGHT, IF YOU WANTED AN EARLIER TIME, IT WOULD HAVE COST AN EXTRA HALF MILLION AMERICAN. BB: RELAX. MIDNIGHT'S CLOSE ENOUGH. EM: REMEMBER, TURBINE NUMBER 2 IS THE ONE THAT'S OFF. DON'T MAKE A MISTAKE. I WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO PAY OFF THE WHOLE KGB. BB: I'VE GOT PEOPLE IN THERE. IT WOULDN'T BE A PROBLEM. EM: RIGHT. AND REMEMBER, NO MORE THAN 20 TONS. THEY'D HAVE A TOUGH TIME COVERING MORE THAN THAT UP. EM: THERE'S SUPPOSED TO BE A SAFETY TEST TODAY. BB: HA. THAT'S RICH. EM: NO, YOU ARE. EM: ANYWAY, IF YOU TAKE TOO MUCH, THEY MIGHT NOTICE SOMETHING. EM: AND SINCE THEY'RE RUNNING A TEST, IT MIGHT RUN RISKS FOR THE SAFETY OF THE REACTOR. EM: THE LAST THING WE NEED IS TO GET KILLED IN A NUCLEAR EXPLOSION. BB: DON'T WORRY. YOUR KID'LL STILL HAVE A FATHER WHEN THIS IS OVER. BB: AH, MIDNIGHT. LOOKS LIKE I'M DONE KILLING TIME.
OPERATION WORMWOOD : 26 APRIL 1986 : 12:29 EM: THE POWER JUST DROPPED TO BELOW SAFETY POINTS. ANYTHING GOING ON? BB: NOTHING I CAN SEE. DO WE NEED TO STOP LOADING? EM: ...I DON'T THINK SO. SAFETY MEASURES ARE IN EFFECT. BB: WE'VE GOT AROUND A QUARTER OF IT LOADED NOW. TELL ME IF ANYTHING STARTS HAPPENING. EM: WILL DO, BOSS.
OPERATION WORMWOOD : 26 APRIL 1986 : 1:04 EM: POWER'S GOING BACK UP. WHAT'S YOUR STATUS OVER THERE? BB: WE'VE GOT HALF- BB: SHIT, SOMEONE'S TRYING TO RAISE AN ALARM-
OPERATION WORMWOOD : 26 APRIL 1986 : 1:09 BB: TOOK CARE OF THE PROBLEM. HE ALMOST MADE IT TO THE CONTROL ROOM BEFORE I COULD HANDLE IT. DID HE GET A CALL OUT? EM: THERE'S NOTHING ON MY SCANNERS.
OPERATION WORMWOOD : 26 APRIL 1986 : 1:14 EM: THE CONTROL RODS ARE OUT... THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG HERE. I THINK SOMEONE'S TRYING TO INCREASE THE POWER. BB: DID YOU FORGET TO PAY SOMEONE OFF? EM: I PAID OFF THE ONES YOU WANTED PAID OFF. LOOK, IT JUST DOESN'T SEEM RIGHT. I THINK YOU SHOULD ABORT. BB: ... BB: IF WE ABORT NOW AND THIS IS JUST A HUNCH... EM: NO, THE CONTROL CHIPS ARE GOING OUT... THE SAFETY'S OFF. YOU GUYS ARE IN A LOADED GUN RIGHT NOW. GET OUT OF THERE. IF I'M WRONG, WE'LL DEAL WITH IT LATER. BB: ... BB: THIS IS A LOT OF MONEY WE'RE ABOUT TO BLOW. YOU'D BETTER BE RIGHT.
OPERATION WORMWOOD : 26 APRIL 1986 : 1:23 EM: HOLY SHIT... THEY'RE RUNNING THE TEST! EM: GET OUT OF THERE, NOW! BB: WE'RE GONE. GET OUT AND BACK TO THE BASE! EM: MANUAL SHUT DOWN? DON'T THESE IDIOTS KNOW THIER OWN REACTORS? EM: OH SHIT- END OF TRANSCRIPT
The pair of them were silent for a few moments.
"He had to know that removing fuel would... It was like... like listening to our evil twins..." Hal said quietly, his eyes unfocused.
"Yeah." Dave said in just as soft a voice. "Our voices, but the wrong words..." Dave took a breath, then pulled himself together. "Any chance it's fake?" asked Snake.
"I don't know... I should analyze it with another computer, I think..."
Snake nodded. "Good. Get whatever you need from it and we'll go back to the hotel in Slavutych."
Otacon nodded sharply and went to work on pulling the computer apart while Snake looked at the papers again. An unspoken agreement passed between them, and they spent the remaining time in the Ukraine in contemplative silence.