I woke up this morning soaked in a cold sweat. My abdominals heaved and I sprung upright, sitting up in my bed. Light was filtering inside my small dark bedroom from my slightly ajar door, and I had just realized that I must have woken up from a bad dream. Which was odd, considering that I’m not the type of guy who gets nightmares often. Come to think of it, the last one I ever had was years ago at the end of my childhood. Wiping my forehead with my wrist and swinging my legs over the edge of my bed, I clicked on my bedside lamp, immediately greeted with my clean-shaven face staring right back at me in the mirror on my wall. I glanced briefly at my alarm clock. 4 a.m. I felt a brief tingle on the very tips of my thumbs, immediately reminding me of a Shakespeare play that I had recently red.
“By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.”
I had no idea how right I was.
I heard the phone ringing outside my bedroom in the hall. Wondering who could possibly be calling me at this time in the morning, I yawned, stood my 200 lb body up, and headed for the door. Flicking on the light switch on the way to the kitchen phone, I hastily picked up the receiver and tiredly moaned a, “Hello?”
“Oh, so you’re up already?”
I immediately recognized the voice on the other end of the phone. It was my chief and CO. “Sir,” I asked, “is there a problem?”
“Problem? What gave you the idea that there was a problem?”
I sighed, trying not to sound too rude. “Sir, it’s four in the morning, and I’m still in my boxers.”
My CO gave a sigh of his own. “We need you at headquarters. Pronto.”
“Sir, what’s the problem?”
“You know very well that we can’t discuss these things over commercial phone lines, private,” he said, irritated.
“Sir, I’m sorry, sir,” I quickly apologized. “I’ll be over there as soon as possible, Big Boss.”
METAL GEAR: OUTER HEAVEN
6 am is what I like to think of as the zombie shift at FOXHOUND’s headquarters. Even though I, along with the rest of the new recruits, am already training vigorously on the field exercises 100km southwest of the complex, the hallways, offices- everything, is alive like a graveyard. And even those who start their day earlier than us are moving like the living dead, moaning under their breath and muttering quietly as they sip the coffee from the mugs in their shaky hands. Hence the nickname “zombie shift.” It even became a running joke amongst us new guys, and we’d run it into the ground so much that it sometimes drove a quiet chuckle out of Miller “Master” O’Donnell, our supervisor who had the disposition of an ice cube in the artic.
Today was much different. Operatives and office workers alike were darting here and there through the packed hallways, yelling and grunting away as I tried to make my way to the briefing room. Loose papers drifted through the air, machines buzzed, and other office noises were somehow amplified to the extreme, and with me dressed in my standard-issue boreal green camouflage outfit, it made me think for a second that I had just been deployed into the middle of a war somewhere in the Middle East. Pandemonium was the only word that I could think of to describe the chaos as I slithered through the corridors and into the dim briefing room.
“Good morning, private Solid Snake.”
At the sound of my CO’s gruff voice addressing me by my codename, I immediately sprung to attention, standing stiff as a board and saluting to nobody in particular in the apparently empty room.
“Private, I’m over here.”
I craned my neck to the left to see the dominating frame of my CO, the man codenamed “Big Boss,” lounging on the lone seat at the head of the long table in the briefing room. Pivoting sharply on my heel, I faced Big Boss without breaking my salute by even so much as an inch. This man was a legendary soldier in his day, and he commanded respect as much as he did perfection. “Great,” I thought to myself as I connected my unsteady eyes with the stern, deep brown iris of Big Boss’ lone remaining eye, “I’ve somehow gotten in trouble.”
“At ease, Snake,” said Boss, sensing my distress. I immediately loosened and held my hands behind my back after quietly closing the briefing room door. “You may take a seat.”
I selected a chair and sat down, one seat away from Big Boss. His gray-white hair connected to his gray-white mane along his jaw, which I found made the simple eye patch covering his empty left orbital socket all the more noticeable. “Sir, private Solid Snake reporting for duty,” I murmured with caution.
Something was definitely awry. And he knew that I knew it.
“I already know you’re here, private,” he said curtly, “but time is a luxury that we cannot afford.” He swiveled in his chair and looked at the projection screen that was hung on the far wall, clicking a small remote in his hands. The room immediately fell into darkness, and a slightly blurry image plastered itself onto the screen. “Snake, do you know who this is?” He asked.
I studied the face of the man in the picture. “Sir, isn’t that… Gray Fox?”
“Sergeant Frank Jaeger, alias Gray Fox.”
“Fox” was the codename given to the best member of Operation Intrude N313, and it was not hard to see why. The man did everything by the books, even when it was a sure bet that he could get away with a few shortcuts here and there. He was a model soldier; one that Master had continually lectured the new recruits to aspire to be like. In fact, had it not been for Frank, I would have never been here in the first place.
Training to be a soldier is no easy task, everyone who has served in the military will tell you. Training to be a FOXHOUND secret operative, however, is infinitely harder. In the army, you’re told how to hold a rifle and pull the trigger. In FOXHOUND, not only are you told how to hold a rifle, you’re also told how to hold a handgun, how to hold a rocket launcher, how to set landmines, how to avoid setting off landmines, and how to survive against an entire army with nothing but your wits. Whereas Master would show you something and expect you to imitate it flawlessly, Frank would provide a context- that is to say, how to train yourself to train under Miller, to anyone who would ask. I would have crumbled and caved in under the weight of Master’s sessions long ago had it not been for Frank’s help. He was a generous man, and I think that I’d be hard pressed to find someone who genuinely disliked Fox.
“Snake, I’m sure you’re aware of Fox’s current mission,” said Big Boss, interrupting my flashback.
“Sir, of course I am,” I responded eagerly. “He was sent into Africa a month or so ago, right?”
“Yes, but all contact with him has ceased.”
My blood ran cold.
Big Boss grimaced, and stroked his beard. “Fox was sent into Outer Heaven, a newly-established fortress nation approximately 200 kilometers north of Garzburg, South Africa.”
“Sir, Garzburg?” I asked, confused. “Isn’t that just a city?”
“Indeed it is, Snake.”
“Then how can this Outer Heaven be a nation?”
“Because they’ve declared it to be,” said Big Boss, slightly irritated at my curtness. “Outer Heaven is a city-sized military stronghold, completely sovereign from any nation. Essentially, it’s a country within a country.” Boss clicked the remote again, and a new image flashed up onto the projector screen, this time displaying an overhead view of a wide, sprawling complex. “It was rumored some time ago that Outer Heaven was working on constructing a new type of nuclear weapon, and once wind hit the U.S, Britain, and China, they ordered Outer Heaven to allow U.N. inspectors come and investigate their nuclear weapon programs.”
“And?” I ventured, fearing the obvious answer.
“They turned to us, and we sent in Fox to investigate.” Then, with a heavy sigh, Boss muttered, “And as I said, we’ve lost all contact with him.”
Not Frank. Why did it have to be Frank?
“The last message that we received from Fox,” said Big Boss, “was ‘Metal Gear.’”
There was a brief silence between us.
“Sir, that’s it?” I asked.
Big Boss nodded. “Metal Gear, whatever that is supposed to mean.”
Big Boss clicked the remote again, and another picture of Outer Heaven’s heavily fortified walls appeared onscreen. “The U.N. has ordered us to send an agent into Outer Heaven and investigate their plans for their nuclear weapons program, find out what exactly Metal Gear is, and what they plan on doing with both. And since I select who participates in all FOXHOUND operations, I’ve selected you.”
It didn’t register at first.
“Sir?” I asked like a complete moron.
“You, Solid Snake, are to infiltrate Outer Heaven.”