Welcome back. Now let's continue from where we left off.
Gandalf looked at the sign nailed at the front gate, and completely ignored it earning a concerned look from Raiden " You sure about this? Whoever live doesn't seem like he wants to see anyone". Gandalf simply huffed and walked right in, Raiden following right after him, looking at a modest and very well cared for garden.
They go up the steps and stop in front of the door with Gandalf knocking on it using his staff. An annoyed voice yelled from the inside " NO THANK YOU! We don't want any more visitors, well wishers or distant relations". From the sound of it he had a lot of that going on today. Gandalf was nonplussed however and simply replied with " And what about very old friends?" in a somewhat mocking manner.
A few seconds later they were rewarded with an elderly Hobbit opening the door to hopefully welcome them. Said hobbit looked quite old, with greyed out curly hair and a wrinkled face and he wore a red waistcoat over a white shirt and dark brown knee-breeches. 'Does anyone even wear shoes around here?' were Raiden's thoughts. Ever since they got here the only person actually using footwear was Gandalf. Every Hobbit was completely bare foot, then again with how large their feet were there had to be some way they got by.
"Gandalf?" asked the Hobbit, disbelief in his eyes as if he wasn't expecting a visit.
"Bilbo Baggins.." Gandalf replied with in an affectionate tone and slowly knelt, happy to see his old friend again.
"Oh, my dear Gandalf" Said the now named Bilbo Baggins, laughing as he went forward to embrace the man who changed his life.
"One hundred and eleven years old, who would believe it?" Said Gandalf in a surprised tone. Then added "And you haven't aged a day."
They both laughed merrily at that, obviously happy to see each other again. Then Bilbo turned to Raiden and said to him in a bashful and apologetic manner " Oh dear, my apologies i didn't mean to ignore you good sir. Bilbo Baggins, at your service." he said, extending a hand to the strangely garbed man.
Raiden, for his part took it in stride "Raiden at yours. No worries, besides i didn't want to ruin the moment." he waved the Hobbit off, taking his hand with as firm of a handshake as he could give without hurting him.
Bilbo then eagerly urged them in " Well what are you both waiting for, come in!". So in they went, both ducking through the door so as to not hit their heads, with Raiden lowering himself a bit more so as to not accidentally break anything.
"Welcome, welcome!" Bilbo said happily, then hurriedly closing the door so as to not be seen by the neighbors.
When Raiden found it safe to stand straight again he gave a look around the inside. Place was certainly not what he expected, after all it took a while in his world to be actually able to build underground without issues. Where as the outside was small and honestly quite modest ,the interior of the house was more spacious and sizable then he first thought, it was composed of a series of rooms interconnected by a series of corridors : A sitting room with a small fireplace that oozed comfort, bathrooms and bedrooms, a more then adequate kitchen with a fully stocked pantry and a study filled to the brim with books, scrolls and papers.
Really the whole place was quite well equipped to keep it's resident's safe and comfy through any weather.
Bilbo then turned to take Gandalf's hat and staff and placed them next to an end table right at the back of the entrance. Right when he turned to do the same for Raiden though, the latter had already placed his strange box right next to them.
"Sorry, it's probably too heavy for you" was the man's answer when Bilbo turned to look at him.
" So what can i get you two? Tea or something a wee bit stronger? I got a few bottles of the old vineyard left, 1296 hah, almost as old as i am!" he said as he rushed down the hallway. " It was laid down by my father! What say we open one? " he then added.
Raiden didn't pay attention as he looked around the house, Gandalf simply answered with " Just tea, thank you.", he then slightly bumped into the chandelier with his back. He took a moment to steady it then banged his head on the sitting room's door-frame earning a chuckle from his young companion. "No respect for your elders" he muttered, drawing a 'sorry' from said companion.
As Bilbo zipped around the kitchen, Raiden heard him speaking about 'being caught unprepared', muttering about not getting a chance to go to the grocer and Gandalf visiting whenever he pleases. He then saw a pair of pictures right above the hearth and went to take a closer look. He assumed based on the resemblance that they were Bilbo's parents.
Gandalf's interest however was on a framed map sitting on the table and took a close look. It was map of the Erebor The lonely mountain and it's surrounding area.
A moment later Bilbo appeared from the kitchen, a plate of cheese and bread in his hands. " I could make you some eggs if you'd.." he didn't finish as while he saw Raiden looking at the portraits of his parents, Gandalf had simply vanished. " Where's Gandalf?" he asked his younger of the two guests, the cyborg turning to look behind him only to see nothing. "Where did he?"
"Just tea, thank you" Gandalf repeated, his head appearing from inside the kitchen, earning a narrowed look from Raiden and making Bilbo slightly jump from the surprise.
Raiden slowly rubbed his forehead trying to soothe the mental headache, the amount of surprises today really doing a number on him.
He then saw both his elders sending him a look of concern. He waved them off " I'm fine, i don't suppose i can take you up on the food offer?" he asked his host, who happily accepted " Ah, all right then." He turned to the wizard " You don't mind if i eat, do you?" he asked while eating a bit of bread, Gandalf simply saying he didn't mind at all.
Now normally he didn't really need to eat food, while organs were placed inside the cybernetic chassis and functioned like a human's, the enhancements made it so continuous sustenance was unneeded. Blood-sugar levels and any other nutritional needs are kept in check automatically. Still cyborgs, partial and whole had the ability to consume products. It didn't do anything other then the sensation.
So when Raiden proposed the idea, Doktor jumped on it : A self-sustainable, utility chassis. Sure it's specs reduced Raiden's fighting capabilities by 30% (After all his previous body was made with very-prolonged and constant combat in mind so any factors that were considered extraneous were removed so as to not negatively impact performance) but now he has a built in bio-fuel converter. Vitamins and any other substances found in consumable products that benefited the body were absorbed and converted into MCFC electrolytes while any harmful ones were completely broken down, similar to what the nano-machines did when the SOP was still active.
So while he could go on for a maximum of 3 months without any sustenance, it was still useful for him to eat and drink. Besides he liked eating, even more so when Rose started improving after their son called her out one day.
Raiden didn't say anything on that matter for one reason : Neither wife or son knew he turned his taste sensors off every time they ate at home.
As Raiden stepped into the kitchen and took his place in the room, leaning on the back wall, someone started banging loudly at the door, causing Bilbo to stumble back to the wall and choke on his food, getting looks of worry from both his guests.
"Bilbo, BILBO BAGGINS" a loud and obnoxious voice sounded at the door. Raiden subtly engaged AR mode, with his optics sliding in place and saw a couple standing at the door, still knocking loudly. The Reading highlighted them in blue meaning they weren't hostile, so he disengaged. Before he could ask though Bilbo loudly and hurriedly whispered " I'm not at home !". He slowly took a look outside from the sitting room's window" It's the Sackville Baggins'es " Bilbo informed them, the woman was still knocking' I know you're in there' she was shouting. " They're after the house. They've never forgiven me for living this long" He went back and placed the plate on the counter below the kitchen's window, looking outside and seeing his...obnoxious relatives walk away fuming.
Raiden then took the initiative " Wanna tell us what that was about?" he asked his host, earning a look of confusion in the process. "That looks like it happens quite often." he ended with, Bilbo's mouth thinning in distaste as he put a kettle of warm tea over the fire to warm up." Confounded relatives, they've been trying to get their hands on the house and Frodo's inheritance for years now, hanging on the bell every day and never giving me a moment's peace" Bilbo answered, aggravated by what just happened. He went back to the window " I wanna go and see mountains again, mountains Gandalf ! And then find someplace quiet where i can finish my book." He told his friend.
He then went and picked up the kettle and poured the tea to the three cups on the table, he then turned to look at Raiden and asked " Aren't you going to take a seat , dear fellow? ".
Raiden politely refused by saying that he was too heavy to sit on the table. So he accepted a plate and ate while standing, careful with his grip so as to not break the plate.
the Food he found, was amazing : a delectable series of cured meats, bread , cheese, eggs and fruits.
Bilbo then turned to look at Raiden "You remind me of another man with the same...issues as you." he remarked to the cyborg, earning a nod and a raised eyebrow. "Do you remember Gandalf?" he asked the wizard.
Said wizard took a moment to remember and promptly laughed in mirth " Ah yes, i also remember Lord Elrond's expression when the lad fell on his rear after the chair broke." They both laughed at the memory, happy to remember something as funny as that.
Raiden, who was visibly confused asked " What guy?"
Bilbo, trying to control his laugh was the one to reply " An old friend, bless his soul, he joined us a little before we reached Rivendell when he showed up out of nowhere with one of Gandalf's fellow wizards." He recounted the tale, of how they met the man after the troll-based incident. After turning them to stone they were encountered by a wizard like Gandalf, "Ah yes, Radagast the Brown" the wizard muttered with a nostalgic tone ,making Raiden raise an eyebrow over the name.
Bilbo continued " Along with the Wizard was a man clad in the oddest armor any of us had ever seen. Colored blue and gold , with white helmet that showed nothing and a circle with an orange light between the eyes. While Gandalf listened to Radagast's warnings that man simply stayed as still as a statue, only looking around for danger. When Thorin asked - well demanded really- the man's name he only replied with 'Gray fox' . "
He stopped the tale when he saw Raiden's one visible eye widen in shock. " Did you know him by any chance? " he asked the cyborg.
Raiden gave it a moment and immediately asked " You sure you remember that right? " Snake and Otacon had told him about Gray fox or rather Frank Jaeger as he was really called. How Snake and Gray fox were both friends and comrades-in-arms during their time with FOXHOUND. How Snake thought he killed him in Zanzibar Land after Big Boss turned them against each other and how he met him in Shadow Moses when Frank went by ' DeepThroat'. And how he was completely crushed by Metal Gear REX in order to both help save Snake and help him defeat Liquid.
Gandalf, confused at his companion's reaction replied " Bilbo is saying the truth Raiden . He was quite the extraordinary warrior. He possessed a blade that could cut through anything from trees, to solid rock, Elven weaponry and even a dragon's scales, fast enough to outrun a warg pack on foot and his armor could make him invisible to all eyes. He gave his life to protect the citizens of lake town from Smaug and with a bit of help, took the foul beast to the grave with him. " He ended with, shocking Raiden.
The details Gandalf described sounded exactly like what he knew about Jaeger's capabilities minus the arm cannon. And the description fit what Otacon told him to a T. With that revelation he put the plate down and addressed the two people in the room " Did he tell you where he came from?" he asked Gandalf, who with a slightly narrowed look asked back " Do you know him perchance?".
Raiden nodded " Not personally, we had a mutual friend actually." he admitted.
Gandalf's next question was somewhat of a gamble " Would that friend go by the name of 'Solid Snake' ?" he asked, making Raiden's eyes go the size of dinner plates, the reaction giving the old wizard some clarity on his newest acquaintance's secrets. "It took a while to warm up, but he did tell us about his past."
Raiden though tried to rebuke that " How is that possible? Fox was crushed to death, how could have gotten here?" He tried to force the matter.
Bilbo who had been silent up to that point decided to interject "He told me about that. He said that he believed this life he had gotten was a chance to redeem himself".
Raiden frowned. Snake did say that Fox carried a lot of guilt. The reason was his adopted sister : Naomi Hunter. He remembered when Snake told him how Fox killed her parents, but couldn't bring himself to kill her. How he took her in and raised her as his own kin. How when she learned that Snake supposedly killed him she injected him with the FOXDIE virus in order to take revenge, only to regret it later when she learned the truth.
He started rubbing his temples. This was getting too much for him. If Fox came here when he died, what did that mean for Raiden? Was he also dead? Did he have a chance of going home to his family?
Gandalf saw the man's distress and tried to console him "While Frank Jaeger came here from his death, that might not apply to you. I need to have a few words with some friends but i believe i might be able to return you to your world."
Raiden appreciated that, accepting the wizard's words with a nod. He stayed still for a moment then made a choice. " I ah, got a secret of my own i'd like to share. Come here." He went to the sitting room, both of his elder's attention on him. He turned to face them and started taking off his clothes.
Bilbo's reaction was to choke on his tea while Gandalf simply watched with a narrowed look.
Their eyes widened with shock when they saw Raiden reveal his body. Unlike Frank's armor which was bulky and rigid , Raiden's was thinner and looked far more human. His upper was colored black with two transparent blue plates covering the chest area k,framed and supported by 3 metal rods and two similar plates on his back the arms and leg's were white and silver with two plates like the ones on his chest, covered the outer shins. His forearms had some sort of housing on them, for what they didn't know. His feet had heels and his hands had slightly long finger nails. He took it a step further when the eye units activated, sliding into place.
Unlike Gray fox who was essentially and quite literally clad head-to-toe in metal armor, Raiden looked completely human while clothed, now they could see where the skin ended and the machine began at his upper neck. He looked much leaner, more streamlined.
Bilbo's jaw went slack and Gandalf simply look like he was contemplating something. Bilbo broke out of his stupor and took cautious step's towards Raiden, as if he didn't believe he'd see something like this again " May I? " he asked as he slowly extended a hand to touch him.
Raiden nodded and Bilbo started prodding him. Arms, legs, torso. "Astonishing. You're just like him yet it feels totally different!" he blurted out.
He laughed at the Hobbit's confusion " Gray fox wasn't a cyborg by conventional means. The 'armor' he wore was an exoskeleton grafted on to his body, my human body was disposed of and replaced with this. Material is mostly synthetic with the muscle fibers being made of carbon nanotube and titanium alloy bones, enlarged chest cavity for housing bio-electric and MCFC batteries. Blood is completely artificial and the organs are too. My only natural, though still heavily enhanced parts are my spine and my head from the mouth up. " He'd give them a more detailed description but he was pretty sure that with the exception of what part of him was still human, everything else flew over their heads.
And he was right, as soon as they heard that last detail Bilbo pulled his hand back and recoiled in shock and disgust and Gandalf had a similar expression.
"You mean that...that" Bilbo understandably disturbed by the revelation. Raiden just nodded " Yep, everything from my lower jaw and down was ripped off and replaced with what you see...although i've had a few changes and upgrades over the years. " He added as an afterthought, although that only confirmed the Hobbit's assumptions.
Gandalf for his part simply asked " Was it of your own will?" he asked, visibly shaken as well though nowhere near as much as his friend.
The answer he got was all he needed to know " Not the first time. The other 3 were."
"Was it painful?" asked Bilbo. He told the Hobbit it wasn't as he wasn't conscious during the process.
Gandalf, noticing the downed mood asked Bilbo " So Bilbo, you mean to go through with your plans?", he sent Raiden a look. He took the hint , dressed back up and continued eating.
Bilbo, thankful for the change of subjects went and sat back down. "Yes, yes it's all in hand. All the arrangements have been made" he told his
"Frodo suspects something's up" Gandalf said, prompting Bilbo to answer with pride " Course he does, he's a Baggins, not some block-headed Bracegirdle from Hard bottle."
Gandalf continued coaxing " You will tell him won't you? You understand he's very fond of you."
Bilbo's smile faded "I know. He'd probably come with me if i'd ask him to." he said in a sad tone " I think in his heart Frodo is still in love with the Shire, it's woods, it's fields...it's rivers.." he muttered.
Raiden would have said something at that point but he stayed silent. He had no right to interrupt this.
Bilbo looked out the window " I'm old Gandalf, i know i don't look it, but i'm beginning to feel it." He started, his hands playing with something in his right pocket, drawing a suspicious look from Gandalf though he didn't notice. " I feel it in my heart. I feel thin, sort of stretched like butter scraped over too much bread." he sat down, feeling his strength slightly leave him. " I need a holiday. A very long holiday, and i don't expect i should return" he let that simmer in " In fact i mean not to..."
Before the mood could really sink, an idea came to Raiden. " Hey, not to interrupt but i don't suppose one of you could tell me the story behind Mountain's and Dragon's and whatever other monstrosity you faced?" he asked the two friends, with Bilbo being more then excited to tell the tale to the newcomer.
And tell he did : From how it began when Gandalf sent 13 dwarves to his house in order to make him their burglar 'Raiding my pantry in the process' he added with a smile, to saving them from being eaten by 3 trolls, the trip to Rivendell which sounded like even more of a paradise then the Shire in Raiden's head. How they were resting on a pair of stone giants without even knowing, the escape from goblin town...
Raiden laughed at some point's, their little dinner at Rivendell , how they escaped by riding barrels down the river to Lake town. " That must've been something huh?" he rhetorically asked. 'Must've been something' didn't even scratch the surface.
"Yes it was. And i would have gone again really". Bilbo answered, drawing a look of pride from the old wizard.
It was night out now, they've finished their lunch and they sat in Bilbo's front yard. Bilbo and Gandalf on the bench while Raiden simply sat on the ground. The people of the Shire were building something of a pavilion down in one of the fields , with a multitude of tents and tables all lit up by a series of hanging lights around them.
Both Bilbo and Gandalf were smoking their pipes, with the former blowing a large ring and the latter a ship that went through it. Raiden caught a whiff and was surprised when chemical analysis came back clean : No nicotine, no cyanide, no benzene. If Snake had some of this stuff he'd actually smile for once before his passing. But that was overshadowed by what he had on his mind. The Shire during the day was a painting - come-to-life. During the night it was jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
"Oh man, my son would have loved living here" Raiden muttered his thoughts, which were heard by both Hobbit and Wizard, the former turning to look at the cyborg.
"You have a family?" Asked Bilbo, getting a nod " Yeah wife and son, kid's turning 10 in a couple month's too", he then added " While i was on duty i sent them to live in a place called New Zealand. It's somewhat similar to the Shire actually" he said, earning a surprised look from both his elders.
"Where exactly is 'New Zealand' if you don't mind me asking?" Bilbo...asked.
Raiden gave it a thought, solid eye images can be projected from his optical implants, but he never thought to try it and learn if others can see them. 'Well no time like the present' he mentally said and stood up.
"All right let's see if this works". he mumbled and the eye units slid into place, he then mentally pulled up the Earth and projected it through them. It worked If the gasps he heard were of any indication.
"Fascinating, what is that?" asked the Hobbit, his curiosity and youthful excitement bubbling to the surface.
"This is Earth. Earth is the name of my world though we don't have the prefix 'Middle' with it. "
" I've never seen a map such as this." Muttered Gandalf, just as surprised as his friend.
"It's not exactly a map. It's how the planet looks from up there" Raiden said, pointing to the sky. "The stars you see during the night? Those are other Celestial bodies. They can either be other Suns or planets." He continued, further astonishing his small audience. "I'd give you a better explanation but Astronomy is not something i can explain really" Τhat certainly made their head spin. Other planet's? life outside of Middle Earth?
He noticed their surprise " You never thought what might be out there? What exists among the stars?"
Gandalf was the first to compose himself " Assumptions always exist Raiden, there was simply never any proof. " while the Isthari understood the concept well enough, it was still mind-bending. He knew Arda, the planet in which Middle Earth was a part of was created by the Music of the Ainur and set as the home for the children of the Iluvatar, but he never knew that life existed outside of it. Or rather he wasn't certain.
That thought gave him his next question " Tell me dear boy, how large is Earth compared to Middle-Earth?" Gandalf asked the cyborg.
"Well, based on some rough math , Middle Earth is about 1.64 million square miles of land. You do use miles to measure distance right?" He asked, getting a nod in return
"Alright then Earth's land expanse is 148.9 million square miles and that makes up 29% of the planet" Now that was a number that made them choke on their smoke, their surprise making him chuckle.
"Good lord, how many people live there?" Was Bilbo's question. A world that big was something out of a fantasy.
"Well let's see. You want the total population at current year...are you sure you wanna hear that number?" He asked, he didn't know what Middle Earth's population was but from what he'd seen in Gandalf's map place wasn't filled with settlements.
Ηe got confirmation from both. He skimmed through the data " Alright let's see...total population of Earth as of 2018 is inhabited by...7.592 billion humans."
The response as before were for both of them to choke on their smoke and erupt into a coughing fit. When they recovered they started asking questions about how people lived. He answered as best he could.
"Human's? And what about other races?" Bilbo asked as soon as he was able to. The coughing fits continued when he said that there were no elves,hobbits or otherwise. And no dwarfs either.
"Usually 'Dwarfs' are born because of an anomaly. They're not dwarves like the ones you know" He really couldn't find an easy way to explain genetics.
Bilbo then decided to end the conversation in a simple manner " Well then , i am rather certain now that this will most definitely be a night to remember. Even without my own party no less!" All three of them laughed at that.
"I guess i overwhelmed you two a little eh?" Raiden asked in a joking manner. They all laughed merrily at that, eager to get rid of anything that burdened them for this one day.
A/N : So Next chapter is the party, short chapter really. I always found everything up until the journey's start to be the most heart-warming and peaceful moments in the series.
I can also give Jack the Ripper some peace of mind as well this way. (For those who don't know Jack the Ripper Was a nickname Raiden earned as a child soldier)
My next hurdle after that is what am i going to do with the cyborg for then next 17 years. I may just do a time skip. We'll see, thank you very much for reading. See you later.