Author's Note: Well, been a while; got consumed by other things. Might come back to this every now and then to keep the juices flowing.
Anyhow, the conclusion of the battle with Eldritch Enigma!
Metal Gear EVA #0-18: "A Reason to Fight"
Solid Snake opened his eyes.
He was inside a tube...filled with orange liquid. And he wasn't drowning.
...okay, this is weird.
As he awoke, various sensors attached to his head automatically detached, along with the helmet that seemed to ascend into the machinery above the tube. Now free to look around, Snake realized he was in a room filled with tubes similar to the one he was in, save for the fact that his was the only one filled with orange goo.
Looking up, Snake tried to find some sort of release hatch, or a grate...anything that could be used to wait why was the liquid draining?
Oh. There was a blue-haired girl in a white and black suit standing there, finger pressed onto the tube's control console. In her other hand was an FN P90.
Somehow, he didn't think Kei was going to hand him her gun this time.
Kei stood silently as the orange gunk drained away, leaving him standing there inside the transparent tube, hacking up the strange goop as he tried to breathe. Kei's face revealed nothing...and yet the P90 aimed at his torso said enough. "Hurgh..." He coughed up some more vestiges of what looked like tang. "...well, looks like this is it."
"Indeed it does, doesn't it?" Kei's voice echoed through speakers into the tube. "Like before...you are trapped. Your life is in my hands. I could shoot you right now, rendering you just another footnote in history."
"...so why go through all of this?" growled Snake, looking around his tube. "Why bother with the VR simulations? Why?"
"...because killing you wouldn't prove anything." The girl sounded as if admitting that much was painful. "Anyone can kill. Man, woman, child...killing isn't special. It isn't unique. Ending your life in this fashion...is meaningless."
Snake arched an eyebrow. "So torturing me was somehow better?"
"Breaking you...is something that no one has ever done. Not even Shalashaska can claim to have done so. It was to be something that I could rightfully claim for myself. Mine, and ONLY mine!"
Snake was a little surprised to hear the raw emotion briefly break through Kei's normally monotone voice. Even Kei seemed surprised at her outburst, immediately clamming up. And just like that, things began to click for Snake. "Hmm...I see now..."
"What do you see, pray tell?"
"A lack of purpose, a lack of identity...wanting to know your own place in a world that doesn't make sense, wanting to define yourself, regardless of what is expected of you...hoping to find some meaning by the approval of those you respect..."
Kei said nothing.
"A lot of children were made into soldiers following Second Impact...I've met a lot of kids like you...different circumstances, but the overall theme still remains the same, over and over again." Snake stared right into Kei's eyes, false and synthetic though they were. "You want your own identity so badly that you don't care how you get it...even if it means getting it through someone like Ocelot."
Kei said nothing. She couldn't, in all honesty. After all, why admit how close to the mark Snake had been? Why acknowledge how deeply she wanted Little Mommy to recognizer he as more than 'one of the Ree'? This depth of character analysis that Snake was exhibiting was...unexpected. Another flaw on my part.
Her scenario had not been foolproof. She had been tailing Snake before his encounter with the Commander...and in her haste, she had abducted him, taking him into NERV. She had dared to think that her sisters would leave her segment of the MAGI alone, so caught up were they in the 'rules of the game'. No...she should have waited. She should have had more of a physical component to her scenario, one where there was little chance of interference from ANY outside source (it was easy for the Ree to break through the walls of cyberspace; breaking through a compound with no air vents and only one door would have been a lot more flashy than the Ree could afford, given how angry it would've made Little Mommy).
Her sisters were at fault for giving Snake the tools needed to break the scenairo. In the end, however, she had not been thorough enough...and she had underestimated her opponent's resolve.
Well, there was only one way to salvage her scenario, now wasn't there?
"If I could not do what no one has done before, then I will settle for what few have accomplished." She pressed another button on the tube's console.
Hot, soapy water blasted into the tube, washing him thoroughly. Then came gusts of warm air.
"You will find your equipment out here. You and I will then fight in a more appropriate location." Having said her piece, Kei walked away.
Moments after she was gone, the tube opened up, letting Snake step out into the rather chilly and dim room. Sure enough, his equipment was sitting on some shelves near a door. "Hmmm..." Snake let his thoughts run freely as he dressed himself; what did Kei have up her sleeves now? Given what she had shown him so far (virtual though they had been), the possibilities were...unsettling.
Just as he holstered his Mk. II, a pale hand reached out of the vent and yanked him in.
He screamed, naturally.
/The Chamber of Ree, Sheol/
Solid Snake landed awkwardly on his feet, his eyes darting to and fro to check his surroundings. A clean room, almost blindingly white...and seven tubes.
All of them holding blue-haired teenagers in form-fitting plug suits. Six of them were staring at him with glee in their red eyes, the only one not moving or looking bearing a '07' on her chest.
"HIIII SNAAAAAKE!" screamed the six Ree.
Snake flinched at the sudden volume. He looked up at the vent he had just been dropped from, looking at the grinning face of Rei Ayanami. "Good luuu~uuck."
The doors into the pristine chamber suddenly opened, revealing Kei Ayanami.
"All right, time for a decisive battle! Solid Snake vs. Eldritch Enigma!" whooped Hatchi.
Zyuu looked excitedly towards Siyon. "Come o~oooon sis, bring up the music!"
"Okie-dokie! For the sake of epicness, we shall go outside the stealth genre and bring something AWESOME!" Siyon, being in her normal body, knew that manipulating her own AT field would've drawn notice. So she instead launched a program that affected the speakers of any particular room in NERV Central.
(Play song "Dance of Illusions" from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night)
Right as the music began, Snake whirled towards Kei, who had already drawn her P90. "Oh damn."
Snake quickly rolled to the side, drawing his SOCOM as he came to a stop. A single shot struck the P90, disrupting Kei's aim. Snake immediately began advancing, delivering more shots to Kei's weapon (after all, the simulation bodies wouldn't go down in one blow; he had to disarm her first). After repeated shots, the P90 was finally knocked out of the girl's hand.
Not one to be denied, Kei reached into her coat and pulled out a flash grenade, pulling the pin as she did so. Snake impulsively shut his eyes, holding his arms over his face as a flash of light and a burst of sound went off. Kei was immediately pulling another P90 out of her coat, intent on wait how was he right in front of her already? He's swift. Instead of retreating from the flashbang, Snake had advanced into close range, where drawing and aiming would be more difficult. Indeed, he had already instinctively grabbed her wrists and held them away from her body. All the same, he's a fool.
Snake was suddenly on the floor, thrown down by Kei. The girl aimed her P90, only to have it shot out of her hand once again by a few shots from the agent's SOCOM. Even so, Kei quickly began stomping the ground, aiming for Snake as he rolled away. This body has augmented strength; with the combat training I've received from Ocelot, I'm more than a match for him. Still, she was not going to be careless; she only had a few years worth of experience via simulation.
Snake had had a lifetime.
It quickly began to show once he got to his feet. Kei's expertly-aimed punches and kicks were dodged and countered with devastating force, her own augmented strength turned against her. He's good...but I still have other tools.
She rolled away from Snake, withdrawing a single baton; its tip crackled with electricity, forcing the special agent to pause. "I will make you fall." At the same time, she withdrew a single black pistol, an FN Five-seven.
More SOCOM bullets knocked it away before she could get a single shot off. Kei was beginning to get annoyed by Snake's utter refusal to let her fire any of her weapons. Even so, she would not falter; she charged forward, letting her simulation body's right shoulder take the brunt of the bullets. She swung her baton about, narrowly missing Snake by centimeters with each strike.
So she stomped on an outstretched foot, pinning him long enough for her to jab the tip of the stun baton into his abdomen. 100,000 volts at 5 mAmps? Very painful.
Snake groaned at the jolt and power coursing through him, barely managing to knock Kei's hand away with his right hand. With a quick elbow to the forehead, Snake twisted Kei's arm around, using her movements to force her into a submission hold. He twisted the stun baton out of her hand, which he then used as a blunt stabbing instrument into her right eye.
Unlike Hatchi and Siyon, Kei did not react as a human. She calmly wrenched the baton out of her face, the tip breaking off as she did. With sheer blunt force, she delivered a side kick to Snake's sternum.
The impact sent him rolling backwards, grimacing from the pressure. Without his protective vest, that would've shattered his rib cage.
As all of this was occurring, the other Ree were giving the combatants many cheers. No one picked sides, no one cheered for one and not the other; they were loving this battle, and they wanted to see it go on, to see it end well. In that sense, Kei was briefly touched by the support her sisters showed (given Siyon's observed longings for the older man, she had not entertained thoughts of Siyon actually giving her support).
Alas, the battle of Solid Snake vs. Eldritch Enigma had to end eventually.
So Kei reached inside her coat and pulled out a gray pistol. A Smith & Wesson Model 500. One of the biggest handguns in the world.
Snake immediately began moving, even before Kei pulled the trigger. After all, if you're in the line of sight of a bullet when the trigger's pulled...you're pretty much dead, more often than not. Especially with a bullet like the .500 Magnum.
Kei pulled the trigger, her aim in the general area of Snake's abdomen, ~ju~uu~ust~ to the right, where he was moving towards.
The sound was louder than a jet engine. In the Chamber of the Ree, it echoed and bounced around like a loud and petulant dog.
Snake's heel smashed into the ground as he pushed, leaning back in a fashion that would impress professional limbo players.
The bullet sailed overhead.
Kei Ayanami, youngest of the Ree, blinked at the sight of the web of cracks streaking across the tube from where the bullet had hit. Coincidentally, Siyon's tube. The various Ree looked on with some surprise and awe (mostly because the bullet had actually damaged the tube. Hatchi and Nana were both ecstatic at the thought), while Kei was somewhat shocked. She had actually fired in the direction of her sisters? She had been observant enough, aiming and moving so that they were out of the line of sight...hadn't she? She hadn't been able to shoot enough to recollect...such crucial details weren't beyond her notice. Certainly not.
To say otherwise would imply that she didn't care if her sisters were collateral damage. She wasn't so callous; sure, her sisters annoyed her to no end and they had ruined her scenario and it was just another item on a long list of items concerning her undying irritation with how they made her existence soooo TEDIOUS...but she didn't want them to die, oh no no.
And suddenly Snake was in her face. Kei couldn't help but balk at her carelessness. This is no time to contemplate and ponder-!
Snake twisted the revolver out of her hands, pushing her back with his left hand before taking aim.
The bullet smashed into her left kneecap, shattering it and causing various components to flying.
The right shoulder, the damage severing her connections to the limb. It dangled uselessly.
Right kneecap and left shoulder met the same fates. Kei was now on her back, ignominious in her defeat.
Snake dropped the revolver, now empty of bullets. He stared quietly at Kei, now immobile. Then, with a tired sigh, he grumbled, "You put me through a lot of crap kid."
"...and it wasn't enough," retorted Kei in her usually emotionless manner.
"..." Snake sighed as he walked around, swiping one of the P90s and pilfering the extra magazines Kei carried on her person. The stun baton was too unwieldy and the gigantic revolver was ill-suited for a (mostly) stealth mission. He paused once more to look at her form, feeling a strange bit of pity. "Whatever it is you're looking for...I hope you find it."
Kei wondered who Snake was, talking down to her like that.
That's when the other Ree chimed in.
"AWESOME!" squealed the six other Ree.
(Play music "Victory Fanfare" from Final Fantasy VI)
"Hey Reeee~i, tell him what he's won!" exclaimed Iti.
Rei's hands suddenly popped down out of the vent above, slapping a rag laced with chloroform over his mouth. Snake struggled and kicked his feet, unable to move the eldest Ayanami sibling's steadfast toe-grip on the vent. As the agent's movements finally began to slow, the girl happily exclaimed, "He wins a jailbreak!"
That's when she ascended, dragging an unconscious Snake with her.
The other six sisters then turned their attention to Kei, who had still not abandoned her simulation body.
"You okay sis? He didn't hurt ya did he?" asked Kiko.
Kei briefly wondered how much gall she had to ask that question.
"Erm, isn't she supposed to explode now?" asked Zyuu.
Siyon gaped. "Oh yeah! I DEMAND YOU TO EXPLODE!"
"Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it!" chanted Nana and Hatchi.
Kei settled for sighing, her frustration audible.
That's when the doors of the Chamber opened to reveal Ocelot. He took in the entire scene with a glance. "Hmm. Must have been quite a show."
"HIIIIII MR. OCELOT!" yelled the Ree, minus Kei.
"Hello girls," remarked the gunslinger as he looked down at Kei's simulation body. Eldritch Enigma looked up at him intently as he sighed. "Well now, this won't do. Let's get you fixed up."
Solid Snake stirred.
"Urgh..." He wearily sat up, blinking at the sunlight in his eyes. "Where...?" His vision focused, and his senses sharpened.
Woodlands. A mere twenty meters away was the tunnel that housed the highway that connected Tokyo-3 with the rest of Japan.
...how'd I get here...?
"Snake! Are you okay?"
A loud sigh of relief. "Oh, thank God! We haven't been able to contact you for nearly twelve hours!"
Snake blinked as he tried to recall what events had just transpired...and as he began to let his thoughts coalesce, Eldritch Enigma stood out the most. "...that long, huh?"
"What happened to you? We couldn't get any feed from your suit, but your vitals were still being sent...where've you been?"
"...got a lot to talk about Otacon..." He quietly looked around, searching for signs of blue hair. None. "...not quite sure how much of it's true though..."
He just managed to miss one Rei Ayanami standing in the highway tunnel, peeking around the corner. Grinning.
With a skip and a hop, she took off on a run towards Tokyo-3, outpacing every single car on the way there. She had to get back before lunch ended!
"I trust you are aware of what went wrong?"
"Yes," answered Kei, her soul inhabiting one of the backup simulation bodies (one derived of any advantageous utilities, to her displeasure, though the ability to go incognito was useful in and of itself), watching as various robotic drones went about fixing and repairing the body of 'Eldritch Enigma'. "In my haste, I began my scenario before I could eliminate unknown variables. I believed, despite evidence to the contrary, that my sisters would leave me be. I underestimated Snake's own abilities."
"Yes, but there's another thing," remarked Ocelot as he twirled his Colt Single Action Army, gauging Kei's reactions with an expert eye. "Cyber Mantis observed your simulation and the following battle through Snake's eyes."
Kei said nothing. She still felt somewhat uncertain by what Ocelot would think.
"Now, I think it's a valid goal to try and break Snake. After all, to do such a thing would be quite the accomplishment." Ocelot stopped spinning his firearm. "However, it was your folly to try and fight him without any foundation."
"A foundation. Stable ground to stand on. You aimed to break Snake. Why? Ostensibly to obtain information...but the primary motive was to prove yourself."
"It would be something that I could claim as my own."
"Yes, but for what purpose?"
"Oh, and what would you gain? I'm certain Dr. Ikari would be less than pleased to discover you are capable of torturing and breaking an American black ops agent."
That...was something to consider. Kei tried to fathom why Dr. Ikari would be displeased; it was a technically impressive feat, one that required great creativity and rational thinking (something her sisters were NOT prone to)...and above all, it was something unique! What would Little Mommy object to?
Sensing Kei's confusion, Ocelot elaborated. "When I go into battle, I have a purpose. A motive. A driving force that always reminds me why I'm doing what I'm doing. Any warrior worth their salt possesses this...for what's the point of fighting if you don't know what you're fighting for?"
Kei knew what she was fighting for: the acknowledgment of Little Mommy, something unique and special to separate her from the Ree...but those were just goals. Nothing but ends in and of themselves. What were the reasons that motivated those goals?
"In battle, everything boils down to one soldier against another. With each blow, with each pull of the trigger, the ideals and dreams of one soldier clash against those of another. One's very identity, against that of another." Ocelot holstered his revolver. "The question I ask you Kei is this: why would you go into battle when you don't even know who you are?"
Why did she do the things she did?
For what purpose did she exist, beyond pleasing Little Mommy, beyond gaining her acknowledgment? Why did she want her acknowledgment? "...Snake had similar insights, though they were far less detailed and explanatory."
Ocelot chuckled. "Insight is a particular talent you gain if you live on the battlefield for as long as we have." The former FOXHOUND agent calmly sat down on a sturdy container of cybernetic components for the Metal Gear variant of Evangelion, making a motion for Kei to sit as well. "I've spoken with you already regarding Big Boss's mission to sabotage the Shagohod; afterward, a number of Russian soldiers who had served under Colonel Volgin were considered traitors and hunted down, despite their lack of wrongdoing." After all, they hadn't been privy to the details of Volgin's planned revolt against the Soviet Union. They had only done their duty. "I was among them, bringing my Ocelot unit with me." For ulterior purposes of course; he was more useful as a freelancer at the time, outside official channels. But why spoil his cover story from the time? It was still true, from a certain point of view. "We were naught but abandoned dogs, without purpose...but we gathered around someone who had purpose, who had ambition and vision. She knew that we nothing but battle-hardened soldiers, who desired only the blood and adrenaline of combat. She was our goddess of war."
Kei was on the floor, listening intently. Ocelot never spoke without a purpose.
"By the time we fully gathered together into a true group, events were transpiring elsewhere in our favor. The Boss had infiltrated North Vietnam in 1969 on a mission to redeem herself for her supposed 'betrayal' during the Shagohod Incident. She wreaked havoc; the command structure of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army was shattered and broken; during the disorientation, American and South Vietnamese forces were able to break through and occupy Hanoi, forcing Ho Chi Minh to surrender unconditionally." The following process of transition of North and South into a unified democratic government (with both Ho Chi Minh of the North and Nguyen Van Thieu of the South barred from executive office to try and ease suspicions of favoritism for either side) had been one of Richard Nixon's most noteworthy claims to fame, perhaps trumped only by his subsequent trip to establish relations with Communist China (the American aid present in Hanoi had, in fact, resulted in medical attention for Ho Chi Minh to mitigate his heart condition, enabling him to live on for several more years, well into the 70s; this had aided the transition process immensely). The end of the Vietnam War in America's favor - helping rebuild Vietnam into a viable ally, much in the same manner of Japan and West Germany following World War II - had been more than enough to redeem her in the eyes of the Nixon Administration, who gave her a Medal of Honor for her efforts.
It was humorous in hindsight; Big Boss would, much much later, reveal to him that the Boss had taken the mission not for the sake of clearing her name...but because she had gotten tired of seeing the war on the evening news every day, without end. "Various dissidents and revolutionary forces scattered due to the presence of the Americans. The flies and maggots that war attracted fled...and they needed a place to hide, a place to reorganize. They ended up congregating in a coastal city in Thailand by the name of Roanapur..." Fond memories of blood and gunsmoke came to mind. "So many rabid mongrels in one place leads to chaos though. There needed to be a controlling hand, and various cartels and crime rings set up shop to get a piece of the action...and that's when we came in."
Ocelot leaned towards Kei, a glimmer in his eyes. It was time to make the young girl into an even deadlier weapon. "Allow me to tell you about Balalaika, head of the Roanapur branch of the Russian mafia, Hotel Moscow."
To be continued...
Author's Note: That's a third member of REEHOUND. Now what?