Standing behind the techies, unfortunately, just wasn't very interesting. It seemed like all they did were system tests, checksumming files, looking at database logs and other bits of computer hocus-pocus that Hal would certainly have been able to recognize if he weren't so worried about getting into the system and getting out of the building without getting caught by the guards.

Hal went back to his computer interface and did a double take. It had gotten in! Somehow, someone must have used a password that was similar to one they'd used on the outside systems!

Hal clicked on the screen again and anxiously watched as it started to stream data. This just had to work!

Hal stood guard at his little pocket PC while the techies again started gathering at a console, pointing and talking quietly amongst themselves.

Snake's bad feeling had gotten worse, but he wasn't ready to quit. There were still two filing cabinets left, and he wasn't about to leave and give Hal the information he'd just found without further proof.

The second last filing cabinet was filled with letters, or rather, correspondence between Julie and potential clients or sellers of medicines. The L annotation from the cross reference suddenly became clear: Julie, or perhaps a secretary, had labeled the letters carefully with an L and a following number, then arranged them numerically.

Most of the letters were uninteresting, though Snake read one or two at the beginning and glanced through the others that weren't related to anything. Basic letters about treatment options, queries and responses about Prozac, Cogentin, Amylobarbitone, Seranace...

L134 was the first referenced letter, and would probably have something interesting in it, so it was the first one he looked for. It was... strange, to say the least. It was a letter that was addressed from "the Boss." It basically said that if Julie did a good job with Mr. Emmerich, he would be willing to give her a recommendation to the men and women under his command if they or their families needed her services. It also had a slightly threatening tone to it, implying that if her services relating to the man were sold to anyone else, she could expect retribution.

It was exactly the sort of letter that Snake himself might have sent to some unknown person if Hal had, against his advice, decided to see a therapist.

Snake frowned, then continued on to the next set that had been cross-referenced. These were letters between Julie and a group calling themselves the "Patriotic Americans Association." They offered money to her for gaining access to Emmerich's son. Their stated goal was at first knowledge of the Boss, and this would be accomplished most easily through a young man who wouldn't have barriers to telling her the Boss's name.

At the third letter, the tone started changing. Apparently, Julie had been asking questions about the association, and was questioning their ultimate goals. The letter written back to her had been some sort of garbage about how there were certain people throughout time who could change the history of the world, and they thought Hal was one of those people. Apparently, they fed her something about nuclear disarmament.

Starting on L146, the letters were missing. Snake growled at this turn of events. The latter letters might have been the most interesting in the group. Whatever had happened, it had been on the orders of this association, and given recent events, it sounded as though the Patriots themselves were involved.

But why would they be involved with Big Boss and Arthur Emmerich? They had made Big Boss, surely they couldn't need to know his name... and sleeping with Hal, who didn't even know the men his father worked with, couldn't have made any difference!

One filing cabinet left.

Histo Ririte.

Hal was breathing too shallowly and rapidly, he knew that intellectually. His breathing was loud in his ears, and he was going to get caught.

They'd found the link, and now they were searching for the pocket PC, and there were guards swarming the area. Hal was having enough trouble trying to stay out of the way of the armed men walking around. The techies had warned them not to fire their guns, but Hal had no doubt that these men would shoot him and then apologize to the technicians.

He'd looked away from the furious debate for only a moment to check on the data, and he'd seen something. The president of the company's name was now in his mind in indelible ink.

Histo Ririte.

The problem was, when he'd looked back up, there was a guard about to bump into him and he'd had to move fast to avoid the man.

They were going to find him, and then they were going to kill him. Where was Snake when he needed him?

Snake was looking at the final filing cabinet. It didn't have much in it.

A chart that looked vaguely anthropological in nature, with the names of Wizard and company with lots of annotations, additional names scrawled around the others. Snake grabbed the chart and put it in his pocket.

A list of names, most crossed out, one underscored. Snake memorized the names and put the sheet back. Cross references that would take a year to decipher. Snake didn't even bother looking at that one.

Snake stopped suddenly, head rising as he went on alert. There was a light on in the house. He'd gone through as much as he could. It was time to leave.

He walked back to the jars and took a few of the blood samples. The lights were getting closer. Definitely time to leave.

Snake walked quietly to the window and got out, closing the window just as a light went on in the attic, then he scaled down the building. He pulled the evidence of his incursion off of the house and sprinted across the street to the rental car.

He drove away into the night.

They'd found it, and they were locking the place down! There was no way to get the mini-computer now. Hal was going to be lucky to get out with his life. Damn the information, it was lost now.

Otacon carefully followed the technicians as the armed guards began escorting them out.

Whoever these people were, they were taking no chances. If these people caught him, he doubted even Snake would be able to save him. Even if he had been here.

Which he wasn't.

He followed the technicians as they walked in a tense line to the top floor. The elevator was down, and the guard did a face check of each one before they were allowed to get on. Hal backed himself up against a wall, hoping against hope that it wouldn't be crowded enough for someone to bump into him.

Hal thought he was going to die as the elevator slowly went up from the basement floor to the ground floor. Security had set up a station that Hal didn't recognize. Each of the techies was walking past slowly to get outside. He couldn't go around it, so Hal waited for his chance. Some of the techies were a little slow to go through, and Hal darted, then heaved a sigh of relief, glad to be out of the building.

When he opened his eyes, there were three guns pointed at him. He looked down stupidly. His suit was off. He looked back up. The three guns were now seventeen. He let his hands slowly move away from his body to emphasize the fact that he was not about to take them on with an M9.

He never even felt the gun hit the back of his head. Dave rubbed his eyes and stretched before turning the car off. 8 hours in a plane, another 3 getting past customs, and then the drive home... damn, but Dave needed to get to his bed and crash. He couldn't have slept more than 20 minutes in the past 2 days. Of course, if he had just let go of his paranoia and actually slept on the plane...

Well, it didn't matter now. Now was time to go say hello to Hal before putting the evidence somewhere for later attention and finding his bed.

He opened his car door and swung it shut, swearing as the window shuddered and the door failed to close. Hal needed to get him a new car, this was it! Funding or no funding, a 1989 Toyota with a bad gear shift simply did not cut it as a spy car!

"'Oh, no, Dave, we can't afford a new car. I needed to get the latest computer toy...'" Dave grumbled and reclosed the door, more gently this time. "'And look what you did to the last one, Dave. You drove it off a cliff instead of getting new plates.' Well, Hal, if you happened to have any skill in something useful like car mechanics, maybe you could have found the trace they put on it, and I wouldn't have had to."

Dave shook his head. Hal had never let him win an argument about a car before... he probably wouldn't now. He yawned and locked the door, and was halfway up the stairs to the apartment before realizing he'd left all the stuff he'd taken from Julie's back in the car.

He sighed and looked back down the stairs, then shook his head. "I'll get Hal to get it. He's the one who's been sitting at his computer, I'm sure he'd love the chance to go outside..." He smirked. Since when did Hal jump at a chance to get away from his computers?

He took the last few flights quickly, eager to get home, but before opening the door to the correct floor, paused. Something felt wrong. It was nothing he could pin down, but it was always a good idea to trust his gut instincts. He looked through the window from the door, but there didn't appear to be anything amiss...

Shrugging, Dave pushed the door open and walked slowly to the apartment door. Open? Dave frowned. That didn't seem right at all... He pressed himself up against the wall, then peeked around the door frame.

Shit. The place was in shambles. He looked in the desk by the front door. M9: missing. The rest of the doors were open, too, so whoever it was must have left.

"Hal?" He looked in Hal's bedroom, then the bathroom, then the kitchen. Wimp. He was probably hiding in a closet. "Hal... if you're hiding, they're gone." He checked in his bedroom for good measure, then shook his head. If Hal were here, he'd have come out by now.

Dave could feel the beginning of a headache. He rubbed his eyes and pinched his nose. Couldn't trust any pills left in the bathroom... He'd have to pick something up later. But where was Hal?

He sighed. Maybe Hal had left a phone message... Now, where was the phone? It had been ripped out of the wall here, and so it had to be... here, following the phone cord under the papers. Dave picked the hardcopies of various pieces of Metal Gear evidence up to reveal the phone.

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