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Jungle Red's a Deadly Shade

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Snake had been feasting on a hearty piece of gharial meat when his radio started beeping, a mechanical buzz that cut through the low hum of the jungle. Out here, crouched among the damp underbrush of Dolinovodno, potential callers were limited. It was probably Major Zero itching to share some bit of esoteric British wisdom, or maybe Para-Medic ready to lecture him about the importance of changing your socks regularly in the field. Snake finished chewing one last chunk of gristle before leaning over to speak into the radio’s mouthpiece.

“What now?” he grumbled.

“Hello, Snake.” The greeting was oddly familiar beneath the radio's static, but it didn't sound like any of his regular contacts. Too young, too eager. A little smug, even.

Snake said nothing, afraid of compromising his position. This was supposed to be a private channel—had the Soviets found out about his mission? Was Volgin closing in, ready to unleash his thousand-volt temper?

“Remember me?” the voice continued. “Or have you already forgotten? I’m hurt.”

It was suddenly obvious who was on the other end of the transmission. Only one person could be that dramatic.

“Major Ocelot? How did you get this frequency?!” Snake demanded.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. I have my ways.”

Snake ended the call and went back to eating his crocodilian dinner. He didn’t have time for this nonsense. Less than ten seconds passed before the radio began to ring again, somehow louder and shriller than before. Realizing that Ocelot wouldn’t be thwarted without significant effort, Snake sighed and answered once more, but was unable to get a word in before Ocelot resumed speaking.

“Now I really am hurt,” Ocelot chided Snake, his tone taking on the vocal equivalent of a pout. “It’s rude to hang up on people like that.”

“I don’t want to play your games, Ocelot. Are you gonna rat me out or what?”

“No. And this is no game. I called you because I want to negotiate.”

“Negotiate?”

“That’s right,” Ocelot said. “Maybe we can arrange a ceasefire. But not like this, not over the radio. In person.”

Snake paused for a moment. “Well, I’d have to ask my commander what his terms are….”

“No!” Ocelot interjected with a shout and then, sensing his over-enthusiasm, cleared his throat. “Ahem. No. Don’t call him. This is just between you and me.”

For some reason he couldn’t fully understand, Snake decided to let his guard down. “Fine. I’ll meet up with you, but don’t try anything funny.”

“I knew you’d agree to do it. Meet me at Ponizovje Warehouse at 22:00. I’ve called off the patrols in the area, so you shouldn’t run into trouble. There’s an office on the top floor at the end of the hallway—feel free to let yourself in.”

“Uh, thanks. Will do.”

“Great! See you then, Snake!” A click, followed by dead air. Ocelot had ended the call, apparently satisfied.

An unexpected turn of events, for sure. But Ocelot seemed earnest enough, and maybe something good would come out of their meeting, some progress made towards unifying East and West. In the meantime, Snake had a few hours to kill before their rendezvous, and he went back to work gnawing on the gharial. Still pretty tasty.

 


 

By 21:50 Snake approached Ponizovje Warehouse, wading through brush and briars as invisible creatures wailed in the distance. A freshly-lit cigar drooped from between Snake’s teeth, a slight indulgence that he had justified as a means to cut through the heavy cover of darkness, but which did more to fill the jungle with a rich aroma of tobacco than to illuminate its secrets. Not that Snake needed the light, anyway; his night vision was already excellent. He easily found the low concrete building, a hulking and brutal compound among the wild foliage. As promised, there were no guards in sight, only the murky expanse of jungle on all sides. The warehouse’s double doors hung ajar, and Snake slipped between them without a sound. Eyeing some propane tanks near the entrance, he hastily put out his cigar and stashed away the remaining portion in his pack.

As he made his way up the stairs, Snake couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about this whole thing. He considered having his gun ready, but he was oddly unconcerned with his immediate safety. If Ocelot had been planning to kill him, Snake reasoned, he would already be dead. More than anything else, Snake was worried that Major Zero might figure out something funny was afoot. He’d assured Zero not to fret, that he was going turn in for the night and there was no reason to be alarmed by radio silence—but lying wasn’t Snake’s strong suit, even if it was only lying by omission. Or treason by omission, really. Too late now. Snake took a deep breath, bracing himself as he reached the room at the end of the chilly hallway, and pushed open a weighty door that whined loudly as it swung on its hinges.

Behind the door was an office, dimly lit, its only source of light a cloth lamp placed atop a polished oak desk. Behind the desk was a plush leather chair, and within the chair sat Ocelot: tall, lanky, and vaguely feline. Ocelot reclined with his legs crossed and his boots resting on the desktop, spurs digging into the wood. Bookshelves lined the room, stacked with Cyrillic-spined hardback volumes and a few framed photographs of decorated Soviet officials. Two smaller chairs sat in front of the desk, facing forward in parallel. Snake paused at the threshold to take in the sights.

“Snake! You made it!” Ocelot’s face brightened upon seeing the American. He leapt out of the office chair, swinging his legs off the desk, and raced to meet Snake at the doorway. “Please, come on in.” Ocelot warmly encircled Snake’s hand between both of his own red gloves and shook it with a vigorous double-handed grip, but Snake was too taken aback to give a proper handshake in return. Any pretense of enmity was long gone; good thing he hadn’t come in guns ablazing.

“Major.” Remembering his manners, Snake nodded respectfully.

“Sit down, make yourself comfortable.” Ocelot was wearing his full uniform, beret and all, but his gun holsters were conspicuously empty in an apparent act of good faith.

Snake awkwardly considered the myriad of firearms hanging off his own belt. “Let me just, uh, set these down,” he said, removing a knife and several pistols from his person. He painstakingly laid each weapon on a small table by the door, making a point to keep his back to Ocelot the whole time and avoid any sudden movements. Once his guns and pouches were all removed, Snake sat down the left of the two visitors’ chairs.

“Good, good. I appreciate the trust.” Ocelot stepped back and sat on top of the desk, halfway perched on its front-facing edge. “So.”

“So,” Snake agreed.

“So let’s negotiate. We’ve both taken a step towards disarmament.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t bring your revolvers.”

“Very funny,” Ocelot remarked, “I didn’t think you’d be into that.”

This struck Snake as an odd turn of phrase, but maybe it was a translation of some Russian idiom he’d never heard before. “Well, I appreciate a nice revolver, but they’re probably not appropriate in a situation like this. Diplomacy and all that.”

“Of course. Better safe than sorry. That’s the whole point of détente—relaxing strained relations.”

“Sure,” Snake said.

“And I’m open to suggestions,” Ocelot offered.

“That’s good to hear. I hate to admit it, but I think you have the upper hand right now, given the circumstances.”

A smile crept across Ocelot’s face, and he laughed. “Oh, you want me to make the first strike?”

“First strike? What are you talking about? I thought we were negotiating a ceasefire.”

“Yes,” Ocelot said, “you and me, right here, right now. But sometimes a preemptive hit is just what you need to jumpstart the process.”

“I’m not sure I follow,” Snake said, growing increasingly bewildered. Was this whole thing a trick? He tensed, taking stock of the room. His guns were within arm’s reach on the table behind him, but the building was probably surrounded by Spetsnaz by now, so making a break for the exit was out. If he barricaded the door with the bookcases, that would buy him some time. Snake could easily take Ocelot one-on-one, but then what? How many waves of GRU reinforcements could he beat back before Volgin arrived? Snake rose from his seat, unsure whether fight or flight was the most appropriate response, but ready to choose one and run with it.

Ocelot placed a gloved hand on Snake’s shoulder, nudging him to sit back down. “Relax, relax. You can make the first move if you want. Maybe that’s more your style. I’m all yours.”

“Major—“

“Please, no need to be so formal.”

“Ocelot.” Snake’s speech was abrupt, his agitation evident. “I need you to tell me what’s going on.”

“No, no. Call me Adamska. I insist. We’re not soldiers right now, John. Just two men.”

John? This was all too much. It was bad enough that Snake’s private radio frequency had been breached, but now Ocelot knew his real name—what kind of intel did the Soviets have on him? “I’m serious. I trusted you by coming here, but if my safety is in jeopardy, then I need to leave right now.”

“Calm down. Everything’s fine.” Ocelot took off his beret, revealing close-cropped blond hair underneath. He toyed with the plush hat, twisting and pulling its velvety fabric between his red leather gloves. “I thought you wanted to be here,” he said in a low voice.

“I do, Ocelot. Uh, Adamska. But I came to talk with you, not to fight.”

“Then don’t fight it.” Setting his hat on the desk beside him, Ocelot extended his arm to take Snake’s jaw in his hand, tilting back his stubbled chin with the curl of a finger. “This is brinkmanship, John. Going at each other fast and hard, striking dangerously,” he purred.

Snake, looking up at Ocelot from this oblique perspective, finally began to realize that their meeting had been a setup after all, but maybe not in the way he’d initially suspected. He assessed the situation again: Ocelot, radiating his usual aura of confidence and poise, dark uniform ironed to perfection, red scarf done up in a flawless Parisian knot—quite a contrast to Snake’s muddy fatigues. Without the beret casting a shadow on his face, Snake could make out the rise and fall of Ocelot’s sharp features, an angular nose rising above the hollow ravine of ruddy cheekbones. Steel grey eyes stared back at him with a clarity far more piercing than any bullet.

Snake placed his hand atop Ocelot’s, stroking the red leather weighing on his throat with the bare digits of his own fingerless gloves. He’d play Ocelot’s war game, negotiate his terms, and retaliate if necessary. The political tension hung between them, charged with the energy of two parties who were both unwilling to lose.

“Are we gonna improve international relations or what?” Snake gruffly asked, breaking the heavy silence. Ocelot’s hand rose and sank with the undulation of Snake’s vocal cords. Snake met Ocelot’s gaze, which held invitation and defiance in equal measure. The two men hung suspended in their joint tableau for hardly an instant, but time slowed to a crawl around them as they each contemplated how the scenario would unfold.

Taking his chance, Ocelot grasped Snake squarely by the chin and pulled the American towards him in a ferocious embrace, their mouths driven together with desperate fury. Snake bent forward to meet Ocelot’s approach, leaning slightly upward towards the opposing party’s vantage point. Ocelot’s lips were brisk and silky against Snake’s coarse whiskers. They clashed with one another in armed conflict, fighting a proxy war of heat and passion and temper.

Ocelot withdrew, panting raggedly. For a moment Snake froze, uncertain if affairs had soured, but Ocelot had only stopped in order to take off his scarf, tugging at the garment with frenzied hands to bare the pallor of his rarely-exposed neck. Ocelot quickly folded the scarf in half before placing it on the desk. Snake took this as a cue to remove his radio and set aside the tangle of wires, internally wincing as he imagined accidentally ringing up Zero in the midst of this meeting. He turned back around to see Ocelot pulling off his gloves, gingerly tugging on the tip of each finger before sliding his hands out of the tight leather. As Ocelot gently laid the gloves flat against the wooden desktop, Snake was struck by the care with which Ocelot performed his actions, that even now the Major took great pride in small gestures.

Then, for whatever reason, Ocelot proceeded to kick off his boots, spurs jangling as they fell. So much for gentleness.

Snake sat next to Ocelot, positioning himself sideways with one leg resting on the desk’s surface and the other barely hanging off it. He felt ungainly and awkward sitting like this, but at least he was face-to-face with Ocelot, if not slightly shorter. Shooting Snake a sly glance, Ocelot unclasped his belted jacket, letting its padded sleeves fall from his shoulders to reveal a blue and white striped telnyashka beneath—the standard issue Soviet military undershirt, a tight-fitting tank top that hugged the contours of Ocelot’s upper body. Surprisingly muscular for such a slender frame, Snake thought. Any sense of danger was forgotten as Snake visually traced the curve of Ocelot’s figure, appraising the dip of a collarbone, the swell of a bicep.

Snake felt his gaze drifting downwards and snapped to attention, meeting Ocelot’s eyes with a twinge of guilt and embarrassment at having been caught looking. Yet Ocelot seemed amused, a coy smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“Don’t be shy,” Ocelot said. “But don’t get ahead of yourself, either.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Snake mumbled, his face reddening.

Ocelot stood from the desk, rising to his full height as he sized up Snake, who was rapt with anticipation. Gazing down upon him, paused as if lost in thought, Ocelot eventually decided that the best course of action was to slide forward onto Snake’s lap, with his arms draped lazily over Snake’s shoulders and their faces mere inches apart. Ocelot played with the twin tails of Snake’s bandana, running his fingers through the fabric trailing behind Snake’s back.

Hardly daring to breathe, Snake slowly closed the gap that separated them, bringing their lips together once again. This time their kiss was less frenzied, with an added hint of tenderness: a war of attrition, not an outright bombardment. Snake closed his eyes as Ocelot’s lips parted, mouth slightly raised in a smile, evidently pleased that Snake had taken the initiative. There was a delicious contrast between the chill of Ocelot’s lips and the warmth of his tongue, and Snake took great pleasure in alternating from one to the other, tasting both in turn. Ocelot clutched at the back of Snake’s jacket, its rough fabric tightly bunched in his balled-up fists. Snake placed one hand under Ocelot’s jaw, the other on the small of his back, using the most delicate touch his broad hands could muster.

They continued like this, gradually rising in intensity, before Ocelot pressed himself into Snake and wrapped his legs around Snake’s waist in a serpentine grip. As he felt sock-clad heels digging into his torso, Snake suddenly understood why Ocelot had taken off his boots earlier. He was thankful not to have a pair of spurs gouging holes in his lower back—try explaining that injury to Para-Medic—but had Ocelot really been thinking so far in advance? Whether in war or in intimacy, it seemed, Ocelot always planned three steps ahead.

Still straddling Snake atop the desk, Ocelot rocked slightly back and forth within the seat of Snake’s lap, a rhythm that slowly increased in tempo and magnitude. Snake rose to Ocelot’s escalation with his own period of expansionism. Even through the layers of clothing between them, Ocelot could sense the disrupted boundaries, the threat of encroaching territory barely held back by Snake’s camo-print slacks.

“God, Americans,” Ocelot murmured, his lips nearly touching Snake’s ear. “You all think containment is the best global policy. But we Soviets know that anything worth sharing will grow as intended.”

Snake shivered, the heat of Ocelot’s breath sending an electric jolt down his head and neck. “Are you trying to start an arms race here?”

“On the contrary. I’ll disarm any weapons you send my way.”

“I thought disarmament was a reciprocal undertaking,” Snake groused, aching with impatience.

Ocelot gently unseated himself from atop Snake and stood up. He unzipped the front of Snake’s jacket, getting to work at undoing the intricate system of tactical straps and harnesses. Snake attempted to offer his assistance, but Ocelot deftly disrobed Snake’s upper half in a matter of moments. Ocelot leaned in to kiss Snake’s neck, no longer blockaded the jacket’s high collar, and lightly grazed the slope of Snake’s muscles with his teeth. Snake retaliated, sliding his hands beneath Ocelot’s undershirt and removing the garment in one swift motion. Ocelot raised his arms above his head, tossing the shirt aside, and leveled his body once more against Snake’s expansive torso. They leaned into one another, skin to skin; the iron curtain between them was raised at last, any borders separating Eastern and Western Blocs now dissolved.

In such close proximity, Snake could feel the pressure of Ocelot’s own raised stakes as tensions soared.

Ocelot set course for an invasion, letting one hand trail down the breadth of Snake’s chest before coming to rest in his lap. Ocelot paused here, the nigh-imperceptible weight of his palm placed idly against Snake’s heft with an impossibly light hand.

“Such a fucking tease,” Snake swore.

“Careful there. Watch who you’re calling names.”

Snake stirred beneath Ocelot’s caress, his back arching from the heightened sensation. Ocelot kissed Snake’s neck once more, this time nipping at his throat with greater force, before finally freeing Snake from the confines of his fatigues. Letting his touch linger for an instant with the slight stroke of a hand, Ocelot pulled away, withdrawing from battle. A groan of dismay nearly escaped Snake’s lips before Ocelot dropped to his knees.

Ocelot peered up at Snake with a cocky grin as he unzipped himself. He placed a single hand on the inside of Snake’s leg, caressing the tender muscles of Snake’s inner thigh with his thumb, and kept the remaining hand in his own lap.

Both men locked gazes before Ocelot closed his eyes and pressed his lips to the tip of Snake’s warhead, initiating an all-out missile crisis.

Snake trembled. He cupped the back of Ocelot’s neck, drawing Ocelot closer into himself. The light sweep of Ocelot’s tongue against his skin was almost unbearably pleasurable. Snake’s hips swayed in time with Ocelot’s regular tempo, quaking in perfect sync. His clasp tightened against Ocelot’s nape, grasping desperately at the short blond hairs on his head but finding little onto which he could hold. Snake was driven ever closer to the brink, all while Ocelot, multitasking, prepared his own faculties to launch. Ocelot took care not to let himself reach the threshold too quickly, much preferring to remain neck-and-neck with Snake in an act of mutually assured destruction.

“Adamska—“

Snake’s resolve crumbled, his payload fully detached from its missile. Ocelot allowed himself to follow suit, intaking the contents of Snake’s fallout while collecting his own mess within the folds of his slacks, no longer immaculate. Snake let his hands, white-knuckled, fall to his sides as he braced himself against the surface of the desk. Ocelot, gasping for breath, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, sat back on his haunches, and beamed at Snake.

“You’re pretty good,” Ocelot said.

“Uh, you’re not so bad yourself,” Snake stammered.

Ocelot returned to a standing position. “You’ll want to hurry and get dressed. Volgin’s men are going to come swarming in any minute now. I pre-scheduled an alert to let them know you’ve been spotted in the area.”

“WHAT?” Snake roared, leaping to his feet. “After all that, you’re still going to snitch?” He rezipped his pants and scrambled to find his jacket, which had fallen on the floor.

“No, no, take it easy. Don’t you get it? Volgin’s men will converge on the area, but they think you fled to Dolinovodno. So all of his resources get diverted back where you came, and you can make your way in the opposite direction, towards Grozynj Grad, without a problem.”

“Oh.”

“See. I’m helping you, not turning you in.” Ocelot put his telnyashka back on, attempting to smooth out its wrinkled surface. “I assume you’re savvy enough to slip out of the warehouse without being detected.” He retrieved his jacket, slipping one arm into its sleeve, then the next.

“I’ll manage,” Snake grumbled as he collected his guns and radio from the table by the door, putting each firearm back in its designated holster. “You could have warned me in advance, though.”

“Ah, but where’s the sport in that?” Ocelot pulled his gloves over his outstretched fingers, then fastened his red beret back upon his head. “I think you enjoyed my way of doing things just fine.”

“Mmmrgh.”

Ocelot ushered Snake to the hallway, placing one gloved hand between Snake’s shoulder blades. “Get going. You can travel under the cover of darkness—there’s still time before dawn breaks.”

Snake turned to face Ocelot. “Uh, thanks.”

Ocelot leaned over and placed a quick peck on Snake’s cheek. “We’ll meet again, John,” he said, then slammed the door shut.

Snake blinked. Making his way down the stairs, slightly weak in the knees, he wasn’t ready to fully process what had just happened. Maybe a puff or two of tobacco would help stimulate his thoughts. Snake made his way back into the jungle night, any headstart Ocelot had given him now negated by the gleaming beacon of his lit cigar. Let it be a challenge.

 


 

In a secluded cabin deep in the woods of Tselinoyarsk, miles from the smoldering remains of Grozynj Grad, Ocelot relaxed in quiet solitude. There was no concern of being followed; only one person had known about the cabin’s existence, but she was long gone, and any other potential threats had been neutralized. Colonel Volgin and his lapdog Raikov were both finally out of the picture. Good riddance, honestly. He was sick of them both, what with Volgin’s erratic temper and Raikov’s puerile outbursts. And two fewer men meant fewer alibis to carefully maintain.

Ocelot rifled through a pile of Western film reels that The Boss had brought over from America. He hadn’t seen Stagecoach in years—not many John Wayne films were broadcast on the Soviet airwaves, much to his dismay—but The Boss was generous enough to help fill the gaps in his home collection. She had always been nice to him, for some reason, if not oddly disciplinary at times. Although they had only interacted on a handful of occasions, usually through their mutual CIA connections, Ocelot had felt an inexplicable desire to get to know her better, to understand why she gave so much to protect a country that hardly seemed to care about her own well-being. After the whole defection snafu, his questions only deepened, but it was clear that she wouldn’t be around much longer to answer them.

It was partly The Boss’s idea to have Snake come in and clean up the international relations mess by taking her out, and she made Ocelot promise that he would do his part to ensure everything went smoothly in orchestrating her death. He’d agreed to help without question; the CIA had insisted, for one, and Ocelot couldn’t say no to the request of such an esteemed soldier, even if it was blatantly suicidal on her behalf. Everyone understood it was the only way to prevent a full-scale war, and The Boss seemed at peace with laying down her life for a larger cause—like any good soldier was supposed to—but there was something wistful in her eyes as she recounted the mission details to Ocelot. As if she wished she could say something more, but was unable to.

In any case, it seemed, he’d never know. The Boss’s final wish had been fulfilled, and her true motivations had died with her. A shame, for sure, but not unheard of in this line of work. She was just another casualty of the well-oiled machinery of war, nothing more.

Ocelot fiddled with the reels of his projector, eventually coaxing the film into displaying itself on the makeshift screen he’d set up with a white sheet and clothespins. The opening credits began to play with a roaring fanfare fit for the sweeping desert vistas of the American Southwest. How he longed to visit one day, once his life calmed down a bit and this business was all behind him. He’d wait for the Cold War to blow over, quit spying and settle into civilian life, maybe open his own ranch….

Enough fantasies for now. There was still business to take care of, alliances to maintain. He lowered the movie’s volume until it was barely audible and picked up the receiver of his rotary telephone. Quickly inputting a series of numbers with hurried circular motions, Ocelot waited to be connected. The droning ringback tone did little to soothe his impatience, and he idly twisted the coiled telephone cord between his fingers.

Someone finally answered. Ocelot held a brief conversation in terse Russian, explaining almost everything that had transpired over the last several days, including The Boss and Volgin’s deaths. He took care to leave out the parts that involved aiding Snake.

“Yes, Chief Director. Of course. I’ll keep the KGB informed.” Already exhausted, Ocelot hung up. The worst part of espionage wasn’t the danger or the secrecy; it was the endless sit-reps he had to deliver, relaying slightly different versions of the same events over and over to different people. He sighed and picked up the phone again, dialing a new number with an international calling code.

For this call, Ocelot switched to English. He rehashed the same story again, but this time in a different tongue, with certain details imperceptibly altered, his testimony approaching the truth but not quite reaching it.

“So it’s all taken care of,” the voice on the phone said, both a statement and a question.

“Yes, we have John—I mean, Snake—to thank for that,” Ocelot said, catching himself.

“He was cooperative when you made contact?” the voice asked.

“I apprehended him as instructed, using the codec frequency you provided. Gaining his trust was surprisingly easy.”

“Good. What steps did you take to win him over?”

Ocelot blushed, remembering their office rendezvous. He’d done what needed to be done for the sake of his assignment. Anything else was a mere byproduct of that. “Nothing particularly interesting. A lot of talk, mostly.”

“The minutiae aren’t important. What matters is that you established a relationship,” the voice said, “and the mission was completed. We received reports that Snake successfully fled Soviet territory with EVA.”

“Indeed, sir. She was after the Philosopher’s Legacy, but the film we handed the Chinese was a fake. Peking must be in an uproar by now.” EVA hadn’t been so interested in Snake after all. She was just another spy, acting on ulterior motives. Really, Ocelot should have been the one escaping with John. He could fly a WIG, too.

“We appreciate that you recovered the real Legacy for us. Or half of it, at least.”

“It was no problem. The Soviets still haven’t discovered my true identity. They have no idea that I’ve been triple-crossing them.”

“It’s imperative that they don’t find out. Shooting out Snake’s eye was a nice touch, if not a tad excessive,” the voice said. “Very convincing, though. Rough up the American a bit to prove your loyalty to the Soviets.”

Yes, a nice touch. Not a terrible accident. Even though it didn’t end up jeopardizing the mission, Ocelot felt guilty about the whole thing for some reason. At least Snake hadn’t seemed too upset. Always resilient—it was one of the things he admired about John. Not that Ocelot had any particular feelings towards him.

“Well, I understand the need to keep up appearances,” Ocelot explained sheepishly. “Whatever that may entail.”

“Certainly. You always go above and beyond. It’s what makes you one of our finest agents, Adamska.”

“Please, call me Ocelot. But I’m always at the CIA’s disposal, Mr. Director.”

“Thank you, Ocelot. A job well done, as usual. We’ll be in contact.”

The Director ended their call, leaving Ocelot alone with the muffled sounds of cowboys yelling and horses stampeding. Now that his assignment was over, and most of his allies dead or missing, he was truly flying solo for the first time in quite a while. He supposed he still had some members of the Ocelot Unit, but given the long-term outlook of the GRU, things weren’t looking so good for them. Poor guys. They were excellent fighters, unwaveringly loyal to their commander. He’d be sad to see them go and even sadder to be the one taking them out.

Ocelot tried to follow the movie, but he felt his thoughts wandering quickly. He couldn’t help but wonder what Snake was up to. Hopefully his eye was okay. The damage had been done, but at least he would finally get some real medical attention now that everything was over. Did Snake have a home to go back to? Anyone special waiting for him?

Ocelot considered all of this, attempting to watch the film in front of him, but replaying the one in his mind of the office rendezvous with John. Their meeting had gone off without a hitch, every step falling into place. He recalled the thrill of a plan perfectly executed, the satisfaction of carrying out his duty. Ocelot had never before felt such pleasure in his work; something about this assignment was especially gratifying, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Maybe he would ask Snake if he’d ever felt a similar rush from carrying out a mission—assuming the two of them crossed paths in the future. But Ocelot had a feeling they might, that their spheres of influence were bound to collide once more. Whether as allies or on opposing sides of a conflict, Ocelot anticipated engaging with Snake in further acts of deterrence.