", I think if we use the inverse-"

"We'll get a converse delta field that will-"

"Exactly! We've got to try this out. It could revolutionize production."

Hal looked up as the two went into a room. They looked vaguely scientifically oriented... Maybe they were going downstairs! He jumped up from his seat on the floor and ran to catch up with them. Sure enough, the room they'd gone into had a set of stairs right in the middle.

The exiting doors all had keycard locks on them, so Hal rushed to catch up to the pair as they went down two flights and went out of the stairwell. He was just in time to get through before the door closed on his heels. It was just unfortunate that this didn't happen to be the right floor.

The whole area was completely open. There were lasers and a supercomputer... it looked like a research facility, not a data warehouse. There was nothing much protecting the computer here except for the fact that it wasn't plugged in to anything except for some sort of power supply. Building like this probably had it's own generators.

The good thing was, there were a lot of people here, and many of them were busily going about their work. Hal leaned against the wall beside the door with a smirk. It couldn't take long before someone went to another floor.

It really didn't. A few minutes later, he was following someone up to the floor above. Hal jammed his foot in the door and looked through. It had been pretty stupid to go right through before, when he didn't have a keycard for the building, after all.

This one wasn't the right floor either. A bunch of lousy little cubicles. This was probably where they did the data entry most of the time.

He went back into the stairwell and went down the stairs to wait for someone to open the door of the third floor. It didn't happen quickly, but within an hour, someone left the room to go upstairs. Hal walked in and looked around.

The room was a standard data storage facility, except of course for the robotic arms that stood guard at the far corner of the room, prepared to put a cable in the wall and take it out afterwards. The floor was concrete and raised slightly, surrounded by glass. Few people were in this area, and they probably never left the room except to go to the bathroom. There were telephones in here, but no computers other than the main storage facilities.

Hal smiled. Exactly as planned, he walked up to the computers and plugged his pocket PC in. While he was waiting for his connection software to work, Hal took a brief look around at the people standing in the room. More than half had to be armed... Hal took a deep breath and promised himself he was going to be quiet.

He was happy that he'd written most of the software beforehand... Even small modifications in this setting were going to be difficult...

Once the connection had been made, Hal began the difficult part of his work: hack and extract. His breath became shallow as the time passed and his little computer tried to do it's job. The first five minutes were simple... The next ten were not quite so easy.

Hal's eyes kept going to the guns and the cameras. Was that guard looking at him? No, the eyes moved by... Was that camera focused too much on the little pocket PC? No, it wasn't... Was that man coming over here to check on the computer?

Oh shit. It was just past midnight when the lights in Julie Emmerich's house turned off. Snake wasn't satisfied with that though... he waited and watched as the lights throughout the neighborhood slowly went out, and at half past one, threw a stone at the street lamp in front of the house. He crept to the house and scaled the wall away from the streets, opening a window in the attic to get in.

What he saw when he got in was not really what he'd been expecting. Instead of the normal clutter that tended to fill attics throughout the world, this attic had everything neatly organized. Files cabinets, printouts, things in jars with neat little sticky labels attached... this wasn't an attic, it was a room of evidence.

Snake walked carefully to the jars, avoiding the loose floorboards and watching for rotten wood. The last thing he wanted to do was fall into Hal's step-mother's bed.

Hair samples? What kind of woman was this? Samples of hair from the jars coded as E1 and E2. Judging from the few grays splattered in the coloring of the hair, E1 was supposed to be Hal's father, and E2 was supposed to be Hal.

Half the jars seemed to be dated hair samples, while the other half had what could only be blood samples. The blood samples had other markings, instead of just E1 and E2. Some had B1, B3 and B4 written on them. The blood all seemed to have been carefully labeled with a date and location in coordinates.

What in the world had possessed her to keep vials of blood? Snake could think of a few answers, none of them good, especially if Hal's father had worked with Big Boss. Could Hal's father have been creating and testing biological agents on his own son? Could Big Boss have been involved with gene therapy back then?

Snake frowned. He would have to take some of these and have them tested. Hal would know of somewhere to do it safely.

Snake decided to leave the jars alone for the moment, and instead made his way to the filing cabinets.

Hal stepped backwards as the technician walked past his the little pocket PC. He tried to keep his breathing quiet and even. After all, in the camo suit, even if they touched him, they might not realize he was around. As long as they didn't see the computer, he would be all right.

It might be a good time to check how it was doing at this point. He'd written several programs before-hand to try to automate as much of the crack as possible. Most hacking work was just exploiting known security flaws, after all. Well, that and coming up with new ones, but that tended to take a lot more time than he wanted to spend while on a mission.

The techie had moved on to a new location, and was typing into a console, so now was a perfect time to check on the progress. Hal walked back to his connection and touched the screen a few times. It was at 53%, which meant that it had already completed more than half of the attempted scripted hacks without success. Not great, but it didn't mean too much. Hal had over 10,000 scripts for it to go through to try to crack into a new system. The easiest, and least computationally complex scripts were at the beginning of the run. The later ones ranged from elegant though complex algorithms to brute force cracking methods, used as a last resort.

For comparison, when he'd hacked into the department of defense three years ago, he'd needed no more than 30% of the then 5000 scripts.

Hal bit his lip and watched the count as it slowly went up. Another five minutes passed and Hal frowned. 67%, and the techie activity around several of the consoles was increasing. They couldn't be tracing his hacking this quickly, could they?

He wasn't doing anything active yet. The system would have to have the most advanced anti-hacker protocols he'd ever seen... it couldn't be detecting what he was doing, could it?

There was nothing he could do about it right now except abort the mission, and he wasn't willing to do that yet. Hal glanced nervously between the small screen and the techies.

No, there was nothing to do but wait.

The files weren't what he'd been expecting either. Paper upon paper of technical research into strange theoretical worlds of how nurture was the single most important part of a person's psyche.

Reports on the formative years of what had to be a thousand people, ranging from mother Teresa to Aldolf Hitler and everything in between. In fact, as he glanced through one of the studies, the reports actually went all the way until the end of the teenage years. Had this been the woman's main focus of study? If that were the case, what could have possessed her to take Hal as a lover at such a young age?

Of course, this was just in the first two cabinets. The cabinets lined the attic like insulation, and Snake intended to at least have a general idea of what was in each one.

The next three cabinets were filled with detailed reports on ten people, organized by number and identified by a small one-page summary at the front. These files were much more extensive, judging by the size of them. Each of the massive reports was subdivided, headed apparently by different stages of development, then further divided by age.

Snake took the summary pages of each. They each had a keyword attached with a little yellow sticky note that must have been at least ten years old. Snake absently took note of the names before relegating the sheets to a pocket for further study: Wizard, Warrior, Confederate, Politician, White Knight, Black Knight, Theurgist, High Priest, Economist, and Scientist.

Most of the rest of the cabinets were dedicated to minutiae of meetings Julie must have had with her clients. Snake decided to pass most of these up, and went instead to the file on Arthur Emmerich.

Pulling the heavy file out, Snake widened the beam of his flashlight so that there was a large though diffuse beam over the entire sheet.\line Emmerich had come in following the Gulf War, that much had been true. He'd talked about "the Boss" frequently, but when Julie had pressed for a name, he'd insisted that he couldn't tell her for her own safety. He'd complained of nightmares and flashbacks, though in the first session he hadn't gone into any details. She had diagnosed him with PTSD, though hadn't eliminated the possibility of a general anxiety problem. Snake's eyes closed briefly. Post-traumatic stress disorder?

The next page had several cross listings. L134, FT1, L136-152, B1335-66458896042D2 ongoing... FT1... that was the "Wizard" file... Snake pursed his lips and kept reading.

The following six pages detailed a course of "treatment" that involved distancing the patient from his lover, who from her notes appeared to be the Boss himself, and at the same time creating a dependancy on his therapist. The next twenty were transcripts of sessions in which she apparently had done just that. She'd started some sort of hypnotherapy after that.

Snake read the file, enraptured as she carefully manipulated conversations and sessions. She started bringing up Hal, even though he had never been mentioned in any of the therapy sessions, implying that he needed a positive female influence and finally manipulating her patient into a strange relationship that involved no sex (Hal's father was apparently still devoted to his lover, despite her therapy) but had involved a marriage.

When he proposed marriage, the file suddenly stopped.

What the hell was going on here?

Snake put the file back. This was big, whatever it was... Snake suddenly wished that Otacon was around to watch his back, so to speak.

At the same time, Otacon was wishing that Dave was around to watch his back.

At 95%, Hal knew that the last few tests might take days, and still might not work. He had become afraid of detection and was starting to seriously consider the intelligence of having come on this mission. The current test was to try every single one of the account identifications and passwords from the external system to gain access to the internal system. The simple version of the test tried them each one by one: this more brutish method tried every permutation of user id and password, then attempted to come up with different spellings or numbers that might be used in the passwords.

If this test didn't work, there were still almost 500 more... but each one could take up to an hour, and the final brute force method was a scary piece of work that, in isolation, had taken over 24 hours to find it's way into his own systems. Even at this point, given the size of the various files involved, it might take up to 20 minutes per test.

Oh yes. Hal had to wonder if he had any brains to begin with. This system was uncrackable.

Hal looked down at the little computer, still chugging along. Having nothing else to do, he decided that he might as well look over the shoulders of the techies. At least he might get some information out of it.

If he didn't, he was going to have to cover up the whole thing and somehow make Snake think he'd been working all day or deal with teasing and snide comments for the rest of his life when Dave found out.

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