About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
"The Hudson River . . . We had classified intelligence that a new type of Metal Gear was scheduled for transport. The whole thing stank, but our noses have been out in the cold too long . . ."
Solid Snake stood on the middle of the George Washington Bridge in the torrential downpour, overlooking the water below. The tanker U.S.S. Discovery was approaching and nearly at Snake's "Point of No Return." Snake looked out from under the hooded rain poncho and eyed the traffic on the bridge moving in both directions. Just headlights. No other figures on the walkway. If any people in vehicles saw him, they'd think he was just another suicide statistic. No cause for alarm.
That thought made Snake smile wryly.
Visibility was close to zero due to the heavy rain and high winds. The tanker was just a big, black shape moving along the river.
Time to go.
Snake unzipped the poncho and shrugged it off of his body, revealing the dark sneaking suit that was his trademark uniform, the same old gear he had used during the Shadow Moses affair two years earlier. The uniform showed signs of repair in several places, and there were no protectors in place. Snake was armed only with a Beretta, worn on a hip holster.
He adjusted the goggles over his face, careful not to disturb the signature blue bandana that was also as much a part of his body as the black hair on his head and stubble on his face. Snake checked the small parachute's harness and confirmed that it was snug. He then shimmied up the slippery supports using gloves that were made of special fabric that induced friction even when wet. He climbed onto the rail, stood upright, found his balance, and stretched out his arms to prepare for the dive.
The Discovery's deck moved into position directly below the bridge.
Snake leaped off and the AOD-Automatic Opening Device-caused the stealth parachute to blossom across his back. From that point on he was invisible to radar, sonar, and the naked eye, although the sheets of rain streamed off the parachute wings and drew its outline in the night sky. But no one would notice.
As graceful as a seagull, the former FOXHOUND operative managed to avoid the gusty effects of the wind and glided safely to the ship's deck. He landed lightly in a crouching position, facing the ship's stern. The impact of the landing rendered the stealth camo ineffective, so Snake was forced to deactivate the stealth function and become visible. He cut himself loose from the parachute and attached the wings to the filament on his back. The parachute, fragile as an angel's wings, sat on the filament and tightened with the ship's movement-its other end was tethered to the bridge railing high above. When the wire was fully taut, Snake released the gear; it disappeared into the murky black sky, carried off by the filament. The retractor reeled in the parcel and the pack came to rest unseen in the safety of the bridge.
The helicopter pilot struggled with the controls but kept the aircraft steady as it hovered over the bridge and the tanker below. The storm made it extremely difficult, but the pilot was a good one. He had to be, considering who his passenger was.
The man in the seat behind him had night-vision binoculars to his eyes and was focused on the tanker's deck.
"Our boy is right on schedule," he said. Involuntarily, he drew the six-shooter from the holster on his belt and twirled it in his left hand, gunslinger-style. Just as quickly, he shoved the revolver back into the holster and then reached up to twist his long mustache. His long yellow-white hair came down to his shoulders. He had often been told he resembled the legendary General George Custer, something he considered a compliment. After all, Custer had been a valiant, brave soldier of the U.S. Cavalry.
Revolver Ocelot watched Snake stand on the tanker deck. He lowered the binoculars and then spoke into his cellphone, "He'll know soon enough."
Snake moved behind the windlass and activated his Codec. He punched in the memorized frequency on the device around his wrist and waited for the face of his partner to appear on the Codec's screen.
"This is Snake. Do you read me, Otacon?"
The Codifying Satellite Communication System incorporated anti-wiring coding, digital real-time burst communication, sonar utilization, and radar. Normal communication was instantly codified, compressed, and transmitted in a burst of one microsecond in length. However, Snake could receive it in real time, unscrambled and decoded. The nanomachines in his body received the transmission and stimulated the small bones of his ear so that no one would hear the sound but Snake. And he could contact his partner with a speed-dial button corresponding to a code frequency. If necessary, he didn't need the actual Codec on his wrist. The nanomachines could provide a conduit for conversation in his head, hands free.
"Loud and clear, Snake." Otacon, aka Dr. Hal Emmerich, was probably the closest thing to a "best friend" that Snake had. They had met during the Shadow Moses ordeal and since then had been working together. Although he was younger than Snake, Emmerich's brains and science background were the perfect pairing to the operative's more physical approach to things.
"Kept you waiting, huh? I'm at the sneak point," Snake said.
"Everything going okay?"
"The stealth camo's busted. Landing impact."
"We must have overused it. Sorry, but you're going to have to deal with it. You're not in the military anymore."
"Right. I didn't plan on relying on this gadget anyway," Snake said with not a little sarcasm in his voice.
"Hey, the private sector's not so bad, is it? Privacy guaranteed!"
"I'm happy as long as no one gives me any more unwanted gifts."
"You mean that thing with Naomi?" Otacon didn't have to bring up the fact that Snake was still carrying the FOXDIE virus that he had acquired during the Shadow Moses incident. Thanks to Naomi Hunter, FOXHOUND's chief medic at the time. Whether it had been for Snake's own good or not was still a question.
"And I can't say I miss the chattering nanny," Snake added.
"Oh, Mei Ling's not so bad."
Actually, Snake had found FOXHOUND's communications officer rather cute, a manga character come to life. She did talk a lot, though.
"That reminds me," Otacon continued. "I have to get in touch with her again about that new Natik flashware."
"Diverting toys from the SSCEN again? Give her a message from me. Someone will find out, sooner or later. She's better off assuming it's sooner and quit while she's safe."
"Too true. Okay, Snake, let's get to work."
Snake heard the faint sound of a helicopter. He looked up but couldn't see anything through the rain and darkness.
"You know how the technical specs of Metal Gear were sold on the black market after Shadow Moses?"
"All Ocelot's doing," Snake answered.
"Exactly. And now, every state, group, and dotcom has its own version of Metal Gear."
"Not exactly a classified weapon for today's nuclear powers." Snake still had dreams-and sometimes nightmares-about his encounter with the gigantic, mobile nuclear weapon-launching system that walked like a Transformer come to life.
"This new one seems to have been designed to wipe the floor with all the other models. The only consistent description is that it's an amphibious, anti-Metal Gear vehicle."
"And that explains why this one is under Marine Corps jurisdiction?"
"Right. The mission objective is to make visual confirmation of the new Metal Gear being transported by that tanker and bring back photographic evidence. But I want you first to go up to the top level of the infrastructure, to the bridge. That's Deck-E. We need to find out where the tanker is headed."
"A little reconnaissance, huh?"
"There's too much we don't know about this new prototype. Capabilities, deployment method-we don't even know how close it is to completion. If we know where the testing arena is, I can start to draw some reasonable conclusions."
"All right, I'll head to the bridge ASAP."
"Try to avoid confrontations! Our goal is to collect evidence on Metal Gear development and expose it to the world. It would be best if you could get out of there without alerting anyone."
"Don't worry. I know the drill. We're not terrorists."
"Very good. Don't you forget that you're part of Philanthropy now!" Snake could hear the pride in Otacon's voice. He mouthed the exact words as Otacon repeated them for the thousandth time. "We're an anti- Metal Gear organization and-"
"-and officially recognized by the U.N. I know! Recognized, but still fringe, Otacon."
"All right, all right. So, how's your gear?"
"Seems to have survived the jump."
"Your weapon is a tranquilizer gun converted from a Beretta M92F. It's a little hard to work with, because you'll have to reload after each shot since the slide locks."
"It's better than scavenging at the site. It's got a good suppressor, too."
"The chemical stun will take effect in a few seconds and last for hours. You can take down an elephant with that thing. The effects of the anesthetic round will vary depending on what part of the body is hit. We're talking about a difference of tens of seconds between hitting the limbs, chest, or head. Check out the laser sighting, too!"
Snake grunted his approval.
"As for the equipment . . . " Otacon did a quick scan of Snake's suit using the Codec sensors that were built into it. "Cigarettes? Snake! What's wrong with you?"
Snake shrugged. "It's kind of a lucky charm." With that, he immediately drew one out of the pack, lit it, and inhaled the smoke deeply. It relaxed him.
"You haven't read the Surgeon General's Warning, have you?"
"Drop it, Otacon."
Otacon shook his head and went on. "Okay, your digital camera works almost the same way as your old one. It's just a matter of a few images we need, so just use it to get us the evidence of the new Metal Gear."
Snake held the camera to his face and surveyed the tanker's superstructure and guard stations. A few maintenance workers dressed in rain gear were patrolling the second, fourth, and fifth decks of the crew's quarters. The camera's viewfinder zoomed in on the sentries.
"They don't look armed," Snake commented.
"Hey, Earth to Snake. These are nice, upstanding Marines, not terrorists. Don't get caught; you're in stealth mode from now on."
"Sure. But if it comes to that, a little beauty sleep never hurt anyone."
Snake moved the viewfinder to another sentry. The men did indeed appear to be wet, bored Marines that were unlucky to pull deck duty during the storm, although they were not dressed in uniform.
"By the way, Otacon, are you sure of this intelligence?"
"Absolutely. Hacked it out of the Pentagon's classified files myself."
"Oh, please. I'm too good for that."
"We can't rule out the possibility that this is a trap. Remember, there's a price on our heads."
"You're just being paranoid."
"I hope so."
Snake continued to study the sentries. "Those men-you wouldn't think they were anything but civilians from here."
"With all the ships passing on the river and in the harbor, putting uniformed Marines on the deck would be a bad idea. People can get a clear view of the water from riverside, too. It's a classified operation, Snake. No one's supposed to know the Marines are on the tanker."
A flash of lightning illuminated the sky enough to give Snake a view of the Discovery's port side. "The waterline is too high," he said. "According to the navigational plans, this ship should have discharged its cargo upriver."
"That's because the new Metal Gear is in there," Otacon answered. "No doubt about it."
Snake didn't like it. As he looked around the deck, he felt as if something wasn't right. "The military trains you to watch for threats from the stern of a boat. That's SOP for counter-terror ops, too. Security should be tighter!"
"You worry too much."
"So where's the target?"
"Satellite surveillance is a major international pastime these days. I'd say it's in the cargo holds, safely below deck. Do you see the entrance to the holds?"
Snake swung the camera back to the superstructure. There were several doors on different levels above deck connected by staircases. "Looks like there are a few entryways into the crew quarters."
Then he heard it again-the distinct sound of a helicopter. Snake looked up, and this time he saw it, but it was too rainy and dark to be able to identify what kind of aircraft it was.
At that moment, a sudden movement to his right attracted his attention. He focused the camera in that direction and witnessed a sentry being attacked from behind. A hand clamped over the man's mouth and a knife smoothly slit the guard's throat. Snake watched in horror as the sentry slid to the deck amidst a spreading pool of blood. The killer was dressed in brown camouflage and headgear equipped with night-vision goggles. On his back was a boxy rucksack.
More movement to the upper left. Snake aimed the camera to Deck-B in time to see another camouflaged newcomer slice a crewman's throat.
"Uh . . . looks like we're not the only ones after Metal Gear tonight," Snake whispered.
"Is that a chopper I heard?"
"Affirmative. Probably another cavalry."
Snake searched for the other sentry he had seen earlier but saw yet a third camouflaged figure dragging the guard's body over the low deck railings. The killer rolled the corpse overboard. No one could hear the splash for the sound of the heavy rain.
"What's their game? Hijack?"
Otacon didn't know, but he ventured, "They're probably targeting the ship's controls."
"Otacon, how many men do you need to take over a tanker of this size?"
"The ship is run by a computer so . . . I'd say about eighteen people."
By now, several other camouflaged men had assembled on the superstructure area. Each one sported a machine gun, the stock extended and a silencer affixed to the muzzle.
"AKS-74u's," Snake said.
His eyes drew toward a mustached older man wearing a fur coat and fur hat giving orders to the soldiers. Snake didn't recognize him, but he thought the man to be in his late sixties. Even from Snake's position, the leader exuded a powerful, charismatic presence. The man seemed to be oblivious to the wind and rain and had a somewhat imperious attitude toward the rest of the men. Snake figured the guy had spent a lifetime in the military.
"Russians?" he whispered.
The leader barked a command into a radio. Snake was almost positive that was the language he heard.
"Are you sure?" Otacon asked.
"No Marine barber touched that head of hair."
Snake snapped a picture of the man. "I'm transmitting a photo. Let's get an ID on him ASAP."
"I'm on it."
Snake watched the men spread out over the superstructure. "Looks like the tanker's theirs now."
The sound of the helicopter grew louder. Snake looked up and saw the vehicle soar above him. The noise of its Fenestron-type tail rotor, which made a distinctly different sound in flight from other types of choppers, was familiar to Snake.
"KA-60. Kasatka," he said.
"Kasatka? Kamov chopper, right? A 'Killer Whale.'?"
This was more serious than Snake had planned on. He put the camera away and crouched low.
"Otacon, we need to get a fix on who they are."
"Judging by their transport, aren't they some kind of military commandos?"
"Not necessarily. That chopper could've been the KA-62, the civil model. I wasn't too sure."
Snake heard the uneasiness in Otacon's voice. "Look, Snake, all we need is the photographic evidence of Metal Gear. As long as we have it we can put it online and blow the whole thing wide open. So no pyrotechnics, okay? Leave 'em alone!"
"All right. I'll do my best."
"This isn't Shadow Moses. Reach me if anything happens. I'll be waiting just past the Verrazano Bridge. You need to be off that ship by then. Okay?"
"I'll be in touch."
Snake signed off and rubbed his chin.
Great, he thought. Sneak into a Marine tanker while it's being hijacked by Russian commandos, take a few pictures, and get out without being seen. No problem.
Best to get moving, do the job, and evacuate fast.
Snake moved out of his hiding place, trotted around to the port side of the superstructure, and encountered the back of a commando. He drew the Beretta, held it in both hands, and aimed. "Freeze," Snake ordered as quietly as he could. But the Russian turned. Snake squeezed the trigger. A tranquilizer hit the man
in the neck, the only part of his body that was exposed. The Russian dropped to the deck. Snake quickly reloaded the gun and then grabbed the sleeping commando by the arms. He dragged the man to the side of the railing and hid the body behind a lifeboat. Snake then moved to the first door he saw, which led to Deck-A.