Waiting For Pequod

A/N: This story was inspired by the movie The Killing Fields, based on the experiences of Dith Pran, Cambodian photojournalist who survived not just the fall of his country in the civil war but also the horror of the Cambodian Genocide, one of the most horrible episodes in the country's history and that of humanity, and of his American colleague Sydney Schanberg. Much of the movie was based on Dith Pran's experience in witnessing and surviving the horrors under the Khmer Rouge, the perpetrators of the titular killing fields he stumbles into. The history of Cambodia in that period from post-independence up to the genocide and the Rouge's resulting war with Vietnam had largely been forgotten, relegated to the back-burner as it were by the world's collective memory. But it wasn't so back then as I can still remember the 1979 TIME magazine article that made the genocide its main feature and one particularly stark piece of memory of an addendum describing how the body starves itself to survive in the absence of food. Between 1.5 to 2 million people would die by the Khmer Rouge's hand, 25 percent of Cambodia's population at the time. The genocide had been conspicuously ignored in spite of the massive evidence and memory of the event and was only officially recognized for what it is in recent times. Please correct me if I'm wrong on the details.

I found out that it was released in 1984, where MGSV: TPP was set, and that Mike Oldfield, who made the hit single Nuclear (also used in promotional material in TPP) did the movie's music! This was too good an opportunity for me to pass up. Much of the themes of TPP are shared with The Killing Fields. Thus I write this in honor of both.

Disclaimer: Metal Gear is owned by Konami but still belongs to Kojima in my mind. Everything else here belongs to their respective owners. The events portrayed in this story are fictional but are within real-life historical context of the era, which the author uses freely to entertain readers, adding his own spin to it. I make no pretense of doing historians' work though I feel it necessary to make readers aware of the events that formed the context of this story.

Chapter 1: Three Men in a Hut

Phnom Malai
Near the Cambodian-Thai border,
May 12, 1984.

0143 Hours

Everything went sideways. The three men trapped in the hut were all soldiers of different persuasions: Venom Snake, commander of the private force Diamond Dogs, the heir of the former Militaire Sans Frontiers that he founded with Kazuhira Miller, the concept based upon a corporate military-for-hire; the second man was the surviving member of a People's Army of Vietnam reconnaissance patrol, now lying in bed and heavily-bandaged, patched up with whatever Venom had with him and scrounged up along the way. The third man was his objective, a Khmer Rouge officer, his only wound was a graze in the right arm by the second man's bullet, now patched up.

Venom settled down and relaxed on a what was probably a produce crate, smoking his E-Cigar while he looked at the man lying on the canvas tarp with concern. The KR man stared curiously at the contraption held by the man, the man of whom legends had been spoken off. After a few puffs scented like a neon heaven, Snake proceeded to check the Vietnamese soldier whose pain was eased with the administration of morphine. His breathing was fine. Ten minutes ago, he was fighting for his life while Snake had struggled to stabilize him after a violent skirmish between the pursuing Vietnamese patrol his patient once belonged to and a Khmer Rouge raiding party with his own group caught in the middle. The latter obviously didn't know a rescue mission for one of their brass was in the way and had fired upon them as soon as they came into view. Only the three survived.

"It's you, isn't it?" spoke the third man, his hands still tied to a post in the hooch. "The so-called Legendary Soldier."

"And you are Naga, I presume," Venom replied, using his mark's nom de guerre, as he finished his checkup. He regarded the man dressed in the black pajama-like fatigues of the Khmer Rouge. He was a lean, gaunt fellow, with thin, sinewy muscles that clung to his bones like rope underneath skin bronzed by the elements and sporting wrinkles and scars, testament to the hard life led out in the boondocks. War and privation had made him older than he looked and not helped by his recent roughing-up by his Vietnamese interrogators.

"It's an honor to meet you." He grinned through his croak.

"Yeah, thanks." He went back to tending his patient, rifle still in hand. Snake knew he was legendary, but he wasn't one to toot his horn, no pun intended for the piece of shrapnel lodged to his head. There were more pressing matters than discussing his reputation and deeds. He gave some quick frequency-scanning on his IDroid.

"You don't seem very impressed," the KR man said, disappointed his overtures weren't well-received.

"I've been getting that a lot lately." He took a deep breath. "Mission has gotten sideways. Thinking of a plan to get out of here and getting this man serious medical attention." He took another puff of his E-Cigar. His quick scans only showed static, the kind that can only spell one thing: jammers. Probably, Soviet. The Vietnamese weren't up to the task of operating sophisticated electronic warfare equipment so Moscow lent them some of theirs. This region was probably on lockdown at this moment. No way to contact the Heiwa too, which last transmitted to him that they're leaving, being pursued by the Vietnamese Navy, sights on the former whaling ship after they triangulated her. It also meant Kaz's support team either hasn't arrived or has yet to set up. Until then, there was no way he can call for his ride out of here.

"Why did you come to help me?" His dull eyes were seeking an answer to their situation.

Big Boss looked at him thoughtfully. It was supposed to be a simple job: extract a Khmer Rouge officer from a Vietnamese prison in Serei Saophoan, the capital of the Banteay Meanchey province of Cambodia, currently known as Kampuchea, its original Khmer name, bordering with the Thai province of Sa Kaeo. Given the Vietnamese air defense umbrella, the urgency and secrecy, and logistical issues, he wasn't delivered by Pequod but by fixed-wing transport aircraft, so as to disguise their presence via busy commercial flight paths skirting the edges of the no-fly zone and minimize time made for ingress while Diamond Dogs set up shop out of a section of a Royal Thai Airforce base allocated to them to stage out the extraction phase of the op.

The people who commissioned the job were the Thais and Chinese who wanted to get a handle in containing Vietnamese presence and designs in Southeast Asia. As Ocelot briefed him, both countries had their beefs with Vietnam: Thailand had been directly yet tangentially involved in Vietnam by reasons of keeping communism from spreading into their own backyard, providing the United States Air Force bases to stage aerial operations over North Vietnam and secret deployment of troops. Now because they harbored the Khmer Rouge, initially in order to destabilize Sihanouk, which had gone horribly right, the Thais were bearing the brunt of Vietnamese incursions aimed at their wards scattered in a string of refugee camps on the border. The Chinese had more reasons: Beijing was the chief sponsor of the Khmer Rouge, the invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam nearly annihilated the extremist Maoist group and China needed to save face from the resulting incapability to support their ally; the punitive expedition against Vietnam, carried on behalf of the Khmer Rouge and because the Soviets were establishing their presence on their southern neighbor, ended in a humiliating setback, revealing major deficiencies in their ground forces who were not supported by their navy and air force due to political considerations, mainly that of keeping the Soviets off their backs, whom they warned off, and the Americans from having second thoughts in broadening their relationship with the People's Republic; and third, Soviet support remained, encircling China, and Vietnam continued to operate against the Rouge with relative impunity.

Everyone plays chess these days, the legendary soldier thought wryly. This rush job wasn't exactly helping their situation.

"Someone big wants you out of the country. Don't know who and don't care. I just want to get the mission done well and right." On the ground he was contacted by a collection of Cambodian resistants, mainly Khmer People's National Liberation Armed Forces, the KPNLF's armed wing, some who were former Cambodian Army, trained by British Special Air Service; former Cambodian servicemen belonging to the pro-Sihanouk FUNCINPEC, well as selected Khmer Rouge with inside knowledge of the prison. Venom, who preferred to work alone, reluctantly accepted their assistance as their part of the plan was already written in stone and rolled forward. Very little was said between everyone outside of shoptalk, sprinkled with comments about how Cambodia fell apart and a few smatterings about the Khmer Rouge's rule in Cambodian, increasing the animosity in the already tense undertaking, the ground phase.

"You're not one for talking, are you?"

"At this time, no. But you'll have plenty of people to talk with when this is over."

He frowned at the prospect of entertaining strangers. He already had the "talk" with the Vietnamese. Nothing good to look forward to.

The western part of the country, where the mission took place, was highly-contested between Vietnam and their own installed People's Republic of Kampuchea on one side, supported by the Soviet Union to extend their influence into Southeast Asia via the US-built facilities left from the war like the naval base in Cam Ranh, and the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea on the other, a coalition of Khmers vehemently opposed to Vietnamese occupation and Hanoi's influence in the country, sponsored by China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and of course, the United States. The CGDK consisted of Sihanouk's FUNCINPEC, ironically founded in Pyongyang, North Korea, a communist state; the anti-communist Khmer People's National Liberation Front led by Son Sann, and of course Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot in the shadows in spite of claims by the new leadership. The exigencies of Cold War geopolitics and most Cambodians' desire to kick out the Vietnamese allowed the brutal, bloody-handed Maoist group inside the coalition and their seat in the United Nations, overlooking the genocide they committed against their own people and the cooperation of China, the Rouge's chief sponsor, as they had cooperated with the Americans against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Thailand, having the biggest stake locally, was happy to oblige as Vietnamese border incursions have become a semi-regular occurrence, making the KR and China an exception to their official anti-communist stance, an exception long since made by Nixon's Ping-Pong diplomacy with Beijing. And he heard that Thatcher even went as far as halting shipments of aid to the refugee camps to appease the KR. The last thing made all men in the table squirm with disgust.

But Venom, Kaz, and Ocelot all knew and agreed it was just another chessboard played by Cipher, playing different nations against each other to increase their stranglehold on the globe, Zero's dream.

One of the men confided why they participated in the mission. "If this mission works," said an ex-air force sergeant in French, translated by an interpreter offshore in the Heiwa Maru into his codec, "we get money, better weapons, to kick the fucking Nguyens out of the country. Just like Afghan-ish, Aghana..."

"Afghanistan," Venom supplied the answer that failed to roll off his tongue.

"Yes, Afghanistan!" he said with delight. Then he turned evil eyes on the Khmer Rouge soldiers holding the perimeter. They were out of earshot. "Then we deal with those murdering bastards."

"I see." Venom can comment no more than that. He wasn't allowed himself too much attachment to this group as strict professionalism was paramount in this operation. But he could not help but think about how naive they were in thinking that world powers will notice their plight. No one will spare them the funds or better weapons they yearn for, unless they somehow change the situation dramatically, a near-impossible will-o-wisp. Cambodia was deemed a sideshow, low in the priority lists of Washington, who were engaged in their own support for insurgencies in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and Angola, while Beijing, supplying most of hardware, expected DC to pick up some of the tab. Just pawns to keep in check Soviet power projection, keeping it tied away from the geopolitical "big theaters", the strategic locations like the Middle East and Africa.

And he wondered if these men will ever be the same again, practically at war for all of their lives. There's room at Diamond Dogs for them, he thought to himself, when they could not adjust back to civilian life. They probably earned it twice over.

And those men were dead, bodies left in the open. No time to bury them. He sighed in disgust.

"Perhaps as a gesture of goodwill," said Naga, raising his bound-together hands in a friendly gesture, "can you me untie from this post?"

Venom shook his head. "Can't do that."

"Why not? Your orders?"

"Safety measure."

Naga frowned at his bid for freedom being refused. "Am I to be an animal if I'm this important?" Naga only been bound inside the house. After he was sprung out of jail he had been surrounded by the party's Khmer Rouge men, protecting him from the men of the other factions and Big Boss has to use the force of his personality to get them to stand down.

"They said to get you out in one piece," the former medic answered. "For me getting you in a good condition as possible without too much injury to myself."

"I am no threat to you," he said in a tone of assurance. "I barely made it through that shithole in Serei Saophoan."

"I can see that. Not taking any chances, with your reputation and all."


He regarded him. "You wondered why you're known as Naga?" Surprised registered in the Rouge man's face. "You've earned that name, if my info was right, during the civil war against Sihanouk, you were known amongst both friend and foe as for your swift, unmerciful viciousness; calculated cunning; and cold-blooded resolve, like a snake. But from what I hear you only formerly given that name during your tenures, first in a detention center, then a labor camp." Those unflattering origins make him a snake of a completely different shade.

His face froze in a grimace at that statement. "If I'm such a threat why are you helping the enemy?"

"He's a wounded man," he replied without question. "I can't just leave him to die. He's in no position to oppose us in any case."

Disgust creased the features of the Khmer Rouge man. "Then he's a burden. Sentimentality has no place in this mission."

"I'm acting on this mission. I make decisions in the field doing what I need done."

"Are those wise decisions?" the man contested. Naga's whispery tone was giving Venom both subtle dread and disgust. "You, a dog of war, knows the conduct of warfare better."

Venom resented how the man pronounced the term. He did not let it show. "Care to explain why?"

"You should have abandoned that man on the field," he explained, referring to the wounded man on the tarp. "He adds nothing to your mission's success."

"It's true." He smoked his E-Cigar again. "I should've abandoned him. But I can't. And there is nothing dictating me against helping him either."

"Have you fallen for that old warrior sentimentality?" Naga scoffed. "You call it chivalry, warriors' code, bushido, or whatever. Do you really think this small act of charity will do him any good? Will his superiors soften towards you? The best outcome he can hope for is ten years or more in some reeducation camp back in Vietnam, if he survives interrogation."

Those words chilled Venom to the core. He remembered how Ocelot tortured the Viscount for information on his private force's activities in Africa. And Quiet, good Lord. The doctor in him turned worriedly at the wounded man, thankfully sleeping in morphine-induced tranquility.

"It's not just from a warriors' code, it's common human decency." Which you and your pals lack in spades, he did not say.

"It's base human instinct, small-minded thought revolved around the need to eat, sleep, fuck, give birth and die." The voice seemed caustic towards with those activities.

"I think human instinct also included helping others, altruism, charity as you pointed out."

"Such an instinct is little-used outside pragmatic social exchange."

"What's so wrong with social interaction? Aren't you into socialism?" he challenged.

"We are," he said proudly. "We wish to change the nature of our societies. We wish to change the nature of men."

"Is that why you never asked me about how I feel about my entire team shot to shit?" The question was a pointed one, not knife's edge but rather like a thread of hair slightly poking one's skin.

Naga didn't answer. His face, however, was taut, impassive at its implications.

"I had a mission which I must see through from start to finish, an objective to accomplish at any cost. But I didn't ask for my team to be wiped out."

"They know the risks," he finally croaked. "Soldiers, that they are. Are you feeling guilty over their deaths? Then-"

"I don't show it but yes, I'm pretty fuckin' upset right now," he snapped quietly his irritation, "and before you say it, yes the mission comes first, but I don't disregard my men's lives like that."

"Are you moping over them? You barely knew them. I'm starting to question whether you can get us out of this hellholle at all."

"I could always send you back to the Vietnamese just to get safe passage outta here," Venom quipped.

"That's rather unprofessional of you."

"Define ''professional? If not zip that mouth closed." Venom wanted to palm his face. In just a minute he wasn't feeling himself and he regretted it.

"And calling off this chat already? I rather like your company-"

"How about you shut up?" Venom's raised voice seemed louder with the darkness surrounding them, louder than the jungle insects chirping their calls. The frustration of the moment was present in his voice. Naga wisely bit back his tongue.

He sighed in frustration. "Dammit, we've got only a few hours of daylight," he finally spoke. "The border was quite close, maybe we could make it in an all-night march to the extraction point. Took that chance."

"And you and your hunters met my people," Naga added for his benefit.

"Hell of a random moment to punish my stupid choice." He sighed deeply. "Those guys didn't need to die tonight."

"Such are the fortunes of war. I faced similar dilemmas leading the war, choices had to be made. Choices not to anyone's liking, but choices that offer the best solutions, no matter the costs, choices made in the service of the revolution we started."

"Yeah, how's starving your own people working out for you?" This time the barbs were present in the tone. "Did they choose to starve themselves to better serve you?"

"No more of a brutal decision than what our prince choose for us." Naga stared hard at him, both at Venom and at something far behind him in the distance. "And we had to make one to stay the course, to stay course of our dream." At this moment Venom knew that there really wasn't much to the situation besides the company of his mark and patient. At this moment he had to wait to hear about their lifeline.

Waiting for Pequod.

A/N: This was originally a one-shot of maybe four thousand words but this thing really expanded as I was absorbed with my research for this fic. This was conceived from last year and took a long time to work. I've chopped the original draft to accommodate the expansion. Enjoy and please R&R. :)