Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Metal Gear. A free-roaming Metal Gear game Konami? Impossible says I!

…And I eagerly await to be proven wrong on that front.

Chapter 30: No Way Out of the Rabbit Hole

Raiden was beside himself. Things had been absurd all day long, and as the day was almost bleeding far past midnight and into the early morning he once again found himself in a situation that he wouldn't have imagined he had waiting for him when he woke up that morning.

How could you anticipate coming across the man that ages ago had killed your parents, abducted you, and turned you into an adolescent killing machine? Let alone finding that the man had wound up becoming the President of the United States of America for a term and was now the leader of the terrorist organization set to try and bring the country's electronic and economic infrastructure to its knees.

Oh, and the fact that he was getting his ass handed to him on a silver platter wasn't helping either.

By now Raiden realized that his pistol was doing him no good in this fight, but out of sheer force of habit, when Solidus wasn't running blurry, burning circles around him and he could actually see him, Raiden had to shoot at him.


Being fired upon after ceasing his speedy movement, Solidus drew a katana and a wakizashi pair of HF Blades and blocked the bullets sent his way effortlessly, "You've lost your edge 'Jack the Ripper'." Raiden growled audibly at the bringing up of his nickname, but it did no good, "You've forgotten what it means to get up close and personal for your kill."

Inhumanly fast as he was, Solidus closed the distance quickly and let loose a cross-slash at his prodigal son. Raiden avoided the attack, but suffered the loss of his handgun as the swords cut right through it. Gritting his teeth, he dropped the weapon and braced himself as one of the tentacles of Solidus' suit lashed out and swatted him across the server room.

He hit the floor and bounced off of the wall, head swimming from the impact.

"Ugh," Raiden grunted as he started getting back up, "…It's over. You know there's no way you're going to get away with this. Even if you let off the EMP and take everything down, then what?"

"Ocelot has contingency plans," Solidus declared, "We were going to use Fortune and Dead Cell as decoys to take this ship in our stead and attract the heat while I waited for the Patriots to show themselves to restore order, but since they're all dead now I'll simply have to deal with the fallout in the aftermath. It's nothing I wasn't prepared for anyway. You actually showed up as one. With the Patriots sticking their backup data inside of your head, I can simply kill you and take it to locate them."

"Dead Cell, and the Gurlukovich Mercenaries were just supposed to be decoys…" Raiden parroted to himself as the gravity of everything he'd been told began sinking in. This entire time, all of this had been orchestrated to be akin to Shadow Moses, but Solidus didn't plan on losing. So what happened if he was defeated?

Yeah. If he just so happened to give up the ghost and let Solidus finish him off that would stick the screws to those sons of bitches. He still had his free will! He still had the power to make his own choices, even if those choices were to live as a pawn or to die as a free man!

His Codec began to act up and activate without his prompting, causing a distorted computerized-sounding version of the Colonel's voice to go through his head. The bugs that had been there before were nonexistent now, "If you lose, and if the S3 Plan is deemed a failure due to your rogue actions, we will have to take measures to… clean up after you. You've been told before but it bears repeating. I'm sure that Rosemary wouldn't be a fan of that sort of measure."

…Of course. She was a member of his support team, so of course she'd have been in a place where they could keep her just in case. What did it matter though? Everything he felt for her had been forced by another. If she even really loved him, what did it matter? It was all artificial.

"You can say that she's just a spy to you now Raiden, but you can't lie to us. We're inside of your head. We know full well that you do love her." The AI continued to drone obnoxiously inside of his head, as if it had all of the answers, "For once in your life see something through to the end. For once live up to the responsibilities you've accepted. Kill Solidus. Complete your mission. Serve your country."

"I'm conflicted Jack," Solidus admitted, "I so desperately want the old Jack to come back out. My ripper. But if you kill me you'll simply be their dog doing it on their command. Disgusting. The only thing I can do for you is kill you as you are and remember you as you were. Unfettered, unstoppable. The perfect little machine of destruction."

"You're so stupid…" Raiden eventually said as he stood back up, head lowered to conceal his face beneath his drooping hair.

Hearing his 'creation' speak in such a biting, acerbic manner, especially when he'd clearly been shown to be outclassed, it grated Solidus greatly, "Excuse me Jack? I don't think I got that."

"You made me, right?" Raiden asked, a manic grin slowly spreading across his lips, the rest of his face shaded, "I was your best right? So what the fuck did you think they were going to do with me after you lost me? You're so smart, right? You're the one with the answers that can change the world, right!? Then is it really that much of a surprise that I'm the one they used against you? That I'm the one that's here to kill you? Personally, I think it's FUCKING HILARIOUS!"

It was official. Raiden was finally cracking under the pressure of it all. The entire day's events. The end of the world as it was known looming over his head, his own mortality, his feelings from the old days in battle welling back up, reuniting with his old tormentor that had turned him into the most effective child soldier of the Liberian Civil War, learning that his entire life had been manipulated from the beginning as a test subject meant to represent the American public at large.

He broke.

He had no method to cope with it all.

The only thing he knew for sure was that dealing with Solidus would solve one of his problems, and it was the problem that was the closest to his reach.

The solution was to kill.

And when it came to killing Raiden might have been good, but Jack was better.

Jack was the best.

Solidus could have his powered suit. All Jack the Ripper needed was a blade or something sharp in his hand, and that was all he needed to tear his foe apart. Now he just needed to take one, and he had his eye on a pretty sweet one in particular.

Without a moment's hesitation, Raiden rushed like a bull straight at Solidus, actually surprising the ex-President at his enemy's course of action. He quickly recovered and sent his suit's two tentacles out to impale or batter Raiden into a pulp.

In an absurd show of dexterity, Raiden spotted an opening between the approaching business ends of the two suit weapons and dove like a missile straight through them, barreling right into Solidus' body, tackling him to the ground. Solidus grunted as the air was driven out of his lungs, but when his back hit the ground he used the momentum of the fall to immediately kick his former charge away over his head.

Raiden managed to put his hand on the ground and spring through the move, while Solidus instantly stood back up, cursing himself at allowing himself to be surprised by that berserker's charge. He was then surprised by something else when he realized that he had been relieved of one of his HF Blades, "Impossible."

"Jack the Ripper…" Raiden said, holding up the katana from Solidus' katana/wakizashi duo that he'd taken during his tackle. It had been the sole intent of his attack; to steal one of those beautiful swords, "You know, I can act like I'm disgusted by how I got that nickname, but it's kind of appropriate. I did always like blade work after all."

"Just like I taught you."

"Yeah, let me thank you for that."

Heightened aggression and violent battle style or not, Solidus was still suited up, which meant he was faster and had better reflexes than Raiden. The young man's swift blade rush was met with nothing but a flaming trail on the ground marking the path of Solidus.

'Not good enough Jack!' Solidus thought, wide-eyed with battle lust as he felt his soldier's high flaring up. This was going to be the kind of fight it was in his DNA to enjoy. He just knew it. And then he realized that he'd missed something in the middle of his turning around to face Raiden.

Raiden hadn't stopped to think of his next move or to marvel at Solidus' speed for a moment. He kept moving and wound up getting behind his former superior. Only a quick move saved Solidus, but he still lost a tentacle to Raiden's speedy slash.

He cut through it as if it weren't even there.

Solidus' suit had to cover for the loss of stability the lost tentacle caused his overall balance. This led to Raiden continuing his assault without surcease. His follow up attack was blocked by Solidus's wakizashi, and using his one remaining tentacle to brace himself on the ground from behind he overpowered Raiden, pushing him back against the computer tower that served as the housing case for the GW server.

Solidus smirked as he raised his tentacle and prepared to stab Raiden from the side with it, until he found his eyepatch moved from its proper place to cover his actual good eye and blind him. He then let out a guttural grunt of pain as he felt himself be run through by a sword, "Gack! Jack!"

"Shhh…" Raiden said, grinning as he saw the blood spill through the hole he'd created in Solidus' armor, "You wanted the old Jack back right? Well this is him. Or did you want the Jack that was scared of you and would listen to anything you said? Sorry. That Jack is dead, just like you're going to be."

He finished his statement before feeling the tentacle of Solidus grab him by his throat and lift him off of the ground. The lifting motion slowly pulled the sword free from the wound it had caused and gave Solidus the chance to move his eyepatch back to the correct eye before hurling Raiden across the room, forcing his body to smash off of the cold metal wall hard enough to dent it, "Hah… hah… not enough yet."

"You're really showing your age old man," Raiden taunted as he got back up slowly, bleeding from a contusion on his head, "Maybe you should have a lie down."

"I'm only 37 you brat."

"Wow. You look awful."

"You can't stop me Jack. I will be remembered," Solidus said, dabbing his own blood with his hand before forming a resolute fist, "I want my memory, my existence to remain. Unlike an intron of history... I will be remembered as an exon. That will be my legacy, my mark in history. But the Patriots would deny us even that. I will triumph over the Patriots and liberate us all!"

At that moment a Solar Gun shot flew through the suddenly open door of the server room, impacting off of Solidus' tentacle that he tried to block it with. Raiden's eyes shone at the opportunity presented and he rushed forward to unleash a devastating, streaking cut through the blind side of Solidus' body.

The cut was deep enough to sever his spine, even if it didn't bifurcate him.

Naruto and Olga entered to see his mouth open in a silent gasp of pain and disbelief before his legs gave out entirely and he collapsed bonelessly to the floor.

"Now that…" Raiden said, breathing heavily following his bloody dispatching of Solidus Snake, "…That's what I'm talking about."

Both the paramilitary ninja and the Russian femme stared in interest before Naruto smacked his lips and made a remark, "Well… that's the second 'Snake' that I saw die from a really nasty sword kill. Now I don't know if that's just a theme for me, or if it means anything for our Snake but uh… knock on wood just in case?"

Olga stared at the blood pooling freely around Solidus' body on the floor and let out a sigh of respite, "…Mission accomplished you bastards," She said quietly in honest relief.

Raiden's breathing slowed down over time, and his eyes seemed to calm in time for him to realize just how much blood was covering him. He'd butchered a man for the Patriots. He'd done what they wanted. He was their pawn, just as they'd wanted him to be.

Walking to sit against the computer tower, he threw his sword to the floor and slid to the ground on his backside, running a bloody hand through his light-colored hair, "Well… we won," He said in a hollow voice.

"Not to rain on the parade or anything, but Aniki get to the damn server and jack in!"


"In your wrist guard! A little cord! Find it, pull it out, plug it into the server!" Catherine said, dumbing it down as much as she possibly could for the semi-luddite Naruto.

Cursing inwardly, Naruto did as requested and quickly found the appropriate dock to plug into. Thank God he had a high tech friend and a high tech little sister or they'd never be able to do anything, "Now what?"

"I'm hacking into the ship's controls… now! Use the pad on the underside and turn it!"

"Which way?"

"Your left!"

Naruto dragged his fingertip across the bottom of his opposite wrist as fast as he could and everyone felt the ship sharply jerk to the side, knocking Olga to the ground and Raiden over from his seated position.

Once the rumbling of the turning Arsenal Gear ceased and the frantic chattering of instructions from Catherine Miller ceased, Naruto gave it a good ten seconds before dropping to his knees and setting his forehead against the computer tower, "…Saved the world a-fucking-gain… and I don't think anybody I cared about even died this time. Why am I not happy?"

Because they didn't save their world. They saved the Patriots' world.

The fight hadn't been one that any of the victors had actually believed in, it had been a fight of absolute necessity, for whatever reason they were required to do so. None of them had been there because they believed that Solidus had been entirely wrong.

As far as Philanthropy was concerned, he was right in regards to his final goal of getting to the Patriots, but so wrong about his approach and the actions he'd planned on taking to get to them that there was no way he could be allowed to go through with it.

That left them all feeling quite hollow. There wasn't even the feeling of a job well done, because all of them had done things they had to numb themselves to.

Olga had to fool her soldiers in the Gurlukovich Mercenaries and fight alongside men that hurt them and killed them in Snake and Raiden.

Naruto had killed people that he'd lived and fought alongside in Dead Cell, along with the wife of a man that he'd considered a friend and a respected commanding officer.

…Raiden just felt used.

The endorphins of achieving victory didn't run through Naruto's head for a moment. Raiden was coming to terms over the man that he had been shaped to be his entire life, that no single choice he'd made in twenty-plus years had been his own. Olga might have concluded the mission to protect her daughter, but after the initial relief, she was still clearly apprehensive and somewhat terrified.

Maybe because in the aftermath of it all she'd never been assured of anything else, other than the fact that her baby would live if she did what she was told.

So now what?

This was what it felt like after Shadow Moses, only then there hadn't been such a sense of urgency. They didn't have a next move necessarily planned, but they all needed one.

"Hey," Naruto eventually said to Raiden, making sure he had the man's attention before tilting his head upward, "So are you getting a ride back to shore?"

"What's the point?"

"Well you have a girlfriend don't you?"

Raiden scoffed and stood back up off of the ground, "It wasn't real. The Patriots created her just so I'd fall for her and they could keep tabs on me, to make sure I was coming up the way they wanted me to. She said that it was real for her, but for a relationship like that it's always going to hang overhead. It's not worth it."

Naruto frowned at Raiden's admission before trying to think of something to say, "…Well if you're that broken up about it, it was real to you, even if someone else did set you up. It doesn't really matter for something like that if it was put together, if it's something you want I'd still go for it. After everything that just happened, stop worrying about doing the opposite of what someone wants you to. Sometimes if you want to be happy you've got to let some things slide."

"I'm supposed to let this slide?"

Naruto grinned and mentally connected to Raiden via Codec, "I'm in love with a woman two years older than me who almost killed me twice without saying she was sorry. She's got her own private army that hates my guts, and she's got a kid that isn't mine. Like I said, you've got to let some things slide if you want to take a shot at what you want, especially if it's a girl."

"It's not that easy… is it?"

"Hell no it's not easy. I mean, you've only got one person to convince that loving her is worth the other stuff, but that person knows better because that person is you. You can't fool yourself, but you can convince yourself of damn near anything. Just look at Solidus."

Well, not now because he kind of had his spine severed, but Naruto meant to look more at his ambition. Until the very end he believed he would be the one to change it all with a river of blood, subterfuge, and outright terrorism.

Everything that he'd tried on this day had been in the workings for years. He'd waited and amassed his forces for the last several years to take his chance, and he was convinced the entire way that he was the one that could pull it all off. He never doubted himself for a moment until the bitter end.

"If he could convince himself that he could do all of that, you can convince yourself that you can be with a woman that you know you love. I'm just saying." Naruto communicated to Raiden with a shrug, "At least you've got her already. I've still got to convince mine that we could work out without killing each other."

There were certain people you didn't expect to learn things from. There was no offense intended, but Raiden never expected to get a lesson of the heart from someone like Naruto. That was mostly due to how they'd interacted throughout the day.

Having spoken his opinion to Raiden, Naruto switched his Codec out of Codec-to-Codec mental conversation and tried to contact his support team, "So what's it look like on getting us outta here Kitten?"

"Arsenal is out of Sons of Liberty control Aniki. It's only a matter of time until the U.S. Military finally gets the all-clear to move in and take it over. When that happens…"

When that happened, they'd kill everyone on-board. It would be a rough battle against the Gurlukovich Mercenaries, especially with the suited members of the Arsenal Tengu there to fight as well, but it was going to get nasty regardless.

Moving over to Olga, Naruto reached out to her and set a hand on her shoulder to make sure she knew he wasn't going to leave her alone to deal with things by herself. Everything was going to be okay… somehow. He couldn't tell her how because he didn't have the answer. He hadn't had an answer to the biggest problems presented to him in five years.

Sometimes though, just having that person there to let you know that they were there for you could help more than you could have ever expected.

"Okay, you guys don't worry about getting off. Once Arsenal dives low enough, they can't track it any longer. It was made to house GW, so the conventional U.S. Military equipment isn't high-tech enough to track it yet. We've got a headstart until they put R&D on how to find their own weapon."

No way. The people in charge of America from behind the scenes were smart enough to build a floating fortress before its time that was so ahead of everything else, it couldn't be tracked yet unless it surfaced?

It was almost too much to take in. After five years of dealing with the Patriots never making a single mistake, they had done so now.

"…What?" Naruto's brain almost cooked itself inside of his skull. It was a trap. It had to be. Or was it?

…No. It made complete sense. They would make Arsenal Gear to house GW, so why would they want just anyone with modern equipment to be able to find it after it set out, even by accident? They'd keep it staffed and would only make it surface when they needed to refresh the troops guarding the AI. There was no need for forced tracking to ever occur since GW would independently communicate with the Patriots what it was doing as it filtered the information from the internet and created their memes for them.

In practice, it wasn't ever supposed to be found after it launched unless GW disclosed its location to the Patriots. Solidus was never really supposed to get this far in regards to actually obtaining it. None of this had been accounted for.

So hearing Catherine basically insinuate that she controlled Arsenal Gear was quite the shock to the system.

"Yeah, Emma controls Arsenal Gear now. Her virus shredded the GW AI that was supposed to control it, and Aniki uploaded me into the system… which put her into it too. Yay!"

Naruto froze before letting out an almost maniacal chuckle that followed him all the way to the door of the server room. As it opened when he prepared to step outside he found himself staring down multiple cocked P90s from the remainder of the Arsenal Tengu that had surrounded the room during everything that had happened.

Putting his hands up defensively Naruto stared at them, dumbfounded at the circumstances he found himself in after seemingly surviving everything else that had transpired that day.

He considered that he could have taken them if he'd fallen back into the server room instead of in the corridor leading to it, but the place would have gotten torn apart in the fight and then Arsenal would have been screwed.

Aside from that, he was still under the yoke of the promise that he wouldn't kill any of them. Stopping P90 bullets from dozens of guns without backing it up with lethal force wasn't exactly something he was capable of. Maybe he could send a shot of arcing electricity to blow up the volatile parts of the firearms, but he didn't want to risk coming up with a new jutsu at a moment like this without testing it.

Naruto cleared his throat audibly and proceeded to speak in the best Russian he could, "Prosto chtoby byt' yasno… ya ne ubival lyubogo iz vas segodnya (Just to be clear, I didn't kill ANY of you today)," He said lamely.

"Vniz (Down)!"

"Fuck!" Naruto shouted in English, holding his hands behind his head and dropping to his knees, "Oi, I'll just say that if you shoot me my little sister'll make her new friend sink this thing with all of you in it."

"Stop!" Olga asked/demanded in their native tongue, walking up from behind and pulling Naruto back up to his feet. She sighed as she could see the P90s lower, but it was obvious from how they looked at each other that they were all confused as to why she was wearing the armor of the Cyborg Ninja. It was uncomfortable, but now that things were over she had to come clean with her men, "…I have something that I need to tell you all. Let him alone and you'll know everything."

'Oh man,' Naruto thought to himself, hearing the remorseful inflection in Olga's tone. This had the chance of ending very badly, 'You didn't have to come out. You could have put the visor back on and gotten away.'

They didn't have to know she had been the Cyborg Ninja, and she was about to tell them.

Olga moved close to Naruto and motioned for Raiden to come over in order to exit the server room safely, "Go… wait for me elsewhere," She said in English, "I'll find you when this is done."


"I was prepared to lose them from the very beginning Uzumaki. They fought for me for years, they deserve to know that I betrayed them today."

"They'll kill you."


Naruto almost moved to if nothing else kiss her on the cheek as a show of support, and maybe in case he never got the chance to actually try it before something bad happened, he decided that would be a bad omen. He'd try it later. There were too many reasons as to why it was a bad time at the moment.

He'd go somewhere else on Arsenal Gear and wait.

He'd always wait for her.

The Arsenal Tengu moved aside and let Naruto and Raiden walk through unmolested as Olga had requested. Both stuck close to each other, and Raiden kept his bloody sword out just in case it all started going down.

They safely reached the end of the corridor and exited, leaving them amongst themselves as they kept going to put more distance between themselves and the server room.

Raiden's eyes drifted over to Naruto and he simply decided to ask the question that was killing him. He'd seen Naruto's almost action just a moment prior, even if no one else had, "Those things you said earlier about trying to be with someone even if you know it's a stupid idea… you meant with Olga?"

It was extremely surprising. That was who he'd been talking about? They'd tried to kill each other repeatedly and when they hadn't been directly against each other they seemed to get along like oil and water a lot of the time.

"Yeah, basically," Naruto groused quietly, his worry showing on his face, "…I hate that damn woman. I have for years and I could spend an hour telling you why," He declared straightforwardly, "…I love that damn woman even more though… and I could spend another hour telling you why too."


(Twenty Minutes Later – Exterior of Arsenal Gear)

Snake, Meryl, and Johnny simply sat on the almost exposed body of the vast submersible vessel, staring at the ocean through the see-through 'epidermis' of Arsenal Gear until they saw Naruto and Raiden climb their way up to the surface as well.

Both of them seemed rather battle-worn from their respective conflicts, and neither of them said anything. On the way, they had worked out that Arsenal would circle Manhattan Island and give Raiden a place to get out so he could head back and try to meet with Rosemary. It was what he wanted to do. From there it would head out further to sea where Otacon could pick the rest of them up to leave before the heat came back upon them.

Emma would guide Arsenal Gear to Russia so that the Gurlukovich Mercenaries that had boarded would be able to leave. Despite Arsenal Gear's stealth capabilities, it wasn't the best place for loose ends like them to remain. From there the ship would be hidden, lost to the Patriots, and that would be where it remained.

"Are you sure I shouldn't come with you?" Raiden asked Snake. He'd offered to lend a hand to Philanthropy, but it was thought to be better for Raiden to get his own life in order and sort out his own things before diving back into danger. Putting something like that off would only be bad for him in the long run.

Between 'Jack the Ripper', the realization of what he had been built up to be for years by those in control, everything with Rosemary, and all of his other baggage Raiden would have his hands full for quite a little while.

The Patriots would leave him alone because he was useless to them and didn't know enough of their actual activities or how to expose any of them to threaten them. They'd used him and now he wasn't worth the effort of manipulating directly. He'd proven what they wanted for the most part.

"Kid, when life throws you a bone to do your own thing and live your life, you should take it," Snake said, pointing to himself and to everyone else around, "We don't really have that option. Don't think you have to do anything we're doing just because we're doing it. You don't have anything to prove to anyone, or anything to live up to."

For a victory party of sorts, it was a rather somber affair. Johnny and Meryl were prepared to flat-out leave the Gurlukovich Mercenaries from the moment they learned that Naruto was still alive. He was still their 'Boss' after all, and the things he'd done on that day had only reconfirmed that mindset after a few years absence, but that didn't make the feeling of being back out with the vultures circling them any nicer. At this point it was eight of them, with three being noncombatants, against who knew what was next.

And then there was Liquid Snake apparently taking over Revolver Ocelot's body at the prospect of fighting against Solid Snake… again. That was its own set of madness wrapped in a neat little bow of screwed up. Much to the consternation of everyone else present, Snake had chain-smoked the rest of his carry-on cigs over the fixation with that mess.

The butts of the spent sticks littered the surface of the mighty vessel around Snake's feet.

Before long however, as it might have been an hour, maybe two, a sole figure emerged from the tunnel ladder, climbing up and weakly standing up onto her feet as if she were spent, both physically and emotionally.

Olga had changed back into her commonplace fatigues, the Cyborg Ninja armor nowhere to be seen on her person as she slowly walked over to the others.

The least patient on what had occurred, having partially expected Olga to be strung up for revealing to a group of battle-hardened soldiers that she'd basically betrayed them, Meryl was the first to say anything, "What… what happened?"

"I told them…" Olga said, swaying on her feet weakly, "I told them everything I did, from the very beginning. I told them about the mission, about my role in today's events, about why I did it… and I told them that I was going to leave them because I didn't deserve their allegiance."

Snake cringed, though it was hidden by the attention of everyone else on Olga. An organization like hers was extremely close-knit. The people fighting beside you in a situation like theirs meant everything, and it had clearly been something that she'd taken deadly serious from their run-in on the tanker two years previously.

He couldn't imagine how such a thing as what had occurred today affected any of the parties involved; either Olga or the remainder of the Gurlukovich Mercenaries.

Naruto moved over to her and steadied her with hands on her shoulders, only to feel her reach up and grip his hands, "And? That's not all is it?" He wasn't asking. He knew there was more to it than that. She'd been prepared to lose them from the very beginning, and if it had been that simple she would have been able to hold her head up due to receiving what she'd expected. This was something different.

"…They told me that I'm still their commander," Olga whispered, trying in vain to hide the tears streaking down her face, "That even if I betrayed them, I did it for family… and that they were still my family too."

If she ever needed anything, they would be there. They understood why she would leave them, because there was always the chance that something like this would happen again. The Patriots still had Olga's daughter, and she could still be coerced into anything by virtue of that. Enough of them had died today because of machinations involving someone that they'd placed their faith and trust in.

It wasn't right for her to go on leading them when she knew full well that anything else could happen that would jeopardize the remainder of their lives.

They were going to go home, and she wasn't going to follow, but they had basically said that they would always be at her beck and call if she ever needed them for anything else. That cut her deeper than any words or actions of hatred from them ever could have. She hadn't hurt people that had been willing to hurt her back, she'd hurt people that forgave her regardless and insisted that she owed nothing to.

After she'd changed and gathered what little possessions she had, they all stood in line and saluted her on the way out. Every last one of them left.

As far as they were concerned she still had them. All of them.

Out there on the surface of Arsenal Gear as it began to surface to allow Otacon to land the helicopter that would whisk them away to escape, she couldn't hide the fact that she was crying. Naruto was more than willing to until she regained herself, however long that might have taken.

He hugged her close enough to disguise it for her sake, all the while enduring her blows against his body and her growling at him to let her go, communicating all different sorts of 'bastard' against him in every way that she knew how. There was no force behind them whatsoever, and the rumbling timber of the bite to her voice was to cover for a tone that would have been conveyed as weakness… as if it mattered.

She had him too. That much was abundantly clear by now.


(May 7th 2010 – Undisclosed Location in U.S. Alaska/Yukon Border – Naruto: Age 23)

After the Big Shell destructino and the Manhattan Incident drew to a close, America never learned just how close they came to life as they knew it ending in the country. James Johnson's death and the destruction of cleanup facility were credited to eco-terrorists inspired by the acts of Solid Snake and Naruto Uzumaki.

Not Naruto and Snake themselves, because they were dead of course.

They covered all of their tracks. Contrary to what he said, Solidus was forgotten as far as the news coverage went. His alias and his 'real' name George Sears never came up once. Neither did the Gurlukovich Mercenaries, neither did any of Dead Cell.

No real names were given to the public, and there were no images of the actual incident. The word given to the media was all they had to go on. Nothing about Arsenal Gear, or the Sons of Liberty threat or demands. Unlike Shadow Moses Island, this was almost effectively contained.

Almost, because Philanthropy still did their part to get the real story out, as much as they could through the internet.

The internet, for all of the woes it gave them, seemed to be their most effective weapon these days, more so than blades or bullets anyway. Damn computers.

After all… it was the only way they could seem to get their important intel these days.

In the dark of a large computer room, one small monitor was lit, shadowing the spiky-haired figure standing in front of it. Though it was unable to be seen in the almost nonexistent light, there was a scowl of displeasure firmly affixed on his whisker-marked mug as his foot silently tapped off of the floor, "What a waste of an op… fucking electric trails."

"So?" The excited voice of his younger sister asked over the line between them, "How about it? You didn't plug your suit in and I can't see through the camera in your suit Aniki, it's too smudged."

An exasperated sigh emanated from Naruto as he prompted the computer to shut down, leaving him in pitch darkness. All of that work getting in there for nothing, "Nothin'."


"Nothin' at all that we can actually use Kitten. It's a straight-up dead-end."

"B-But the info from Arsenal Gear when your suit was jacked in! Emma, Hal, and me pulled it ourselves! How could it be wrong?"

"It's not wrong really… just outdated."

"By how long?"

Naruto wasn't particularly sure how to sugarcoat the answer to that question, so he just came out with it, "Most of the last century. Eighty years plus Kitty."

A loud thump sounded out over the Codec, probably Catherine slamming her head down onto the desk she was more than likely sitting at for the duration of the mission. She was still only 21 after all, so she was allowed her bouts of immaturity at times. It wasn't like it mattered either. The mission was basically over.

Rubbing his eyes, Naruto walked almost casually out of the computer room only to be greeted by a figure dropping down behind him. Instead of reacting to the threat such a thing should have posed, he sighed and shook his head, "You're seriously driving the whole 'Cyborg Ninja' thing into the ground."

"Oh, shut up," Olga's clear, natural voice sounded out from within the Cyborg Ninja helmet and visor. She wore a new model with a darker gunmetal and red color combination, sleeker in how it wrapped around her body. There was no confusion with this model as to the fact that a woman resided within the armor.

It was best to destroy the original that she'd been presented with for the sake of the Big Shell mission as quickly as possible, but fortunately they had three people that were damnably good with mechanical design and/or computers. They were able to make a better version, suited for her personally based on data from Gray Fox and from Olga's last suit.

"I heard you over the line," Olga said, a twinge of annoyance in her voice, "Another dead end. How can these men be dead for 100 years and have their records transferred in such a way to remain in the system?"

It was a dummy setup. Even with the information they pulled from GW onboard Arsenal Gear, there were still hiccups. The AI had been heavily broken up by Emma's worm cluster, and what they were able to pull out of the system were bits and pieces really.

Still, missing something like that was a cold slap. Once again, the members of the Patriots showed themselves as ghosts in the behind-the-scenes workings of the United States in a very annoying way.

"I dunno, it's the 21st century." Naruto ventured to say, as if that explained everything. Olga forced her visor to become transparent simply so he could see her glaring at him, "What do you want me to say? The Twelve Wiseman's Committee lead was bullshit. That's all there is to it. We had to track it down this far to find out even that much."

This did nothing to improve her mood in the slightest.

Instead of agreeing or disagreeing verbally, Olga held up three fingers, "This is how old my daughter will be this year. It is also the number of years I've had to go without seeing or holding her in my arms once. If running into yet another brick wall doesn't just fill me with joy I'm sorry for that."

After leaving New York, steps had been taken to put as much distance between Olga and any means for the Patriots to reach her possible. Word of her daughter's well-being came from the Gurlukovich Mercenaries via several roundabout methods as they were still holding the young child to keep Olga in check. Not only her, but all of her allies.

Fortunately for her, her current running mates were extremely talented when it came to missions of a sensitive stealth-related variety. As long as they weren't seen and left no trace of their presence, they could continue to run missions allowing them to track down the whereabouts of the youngest Gurlukovich. They couldn't track Olga because the nanomachines in her body were only meant to respond to the original Cyborg Ninja suit, and that thing had long been scrapped.

Just as long as they weren't found on their missions against Patriot holdings. No fighting was allowed at all, and they were not to be seen under any circumstances. Nothing could be traced to them and their presences couldn't be noticed in any manner whatsoever. As long as Raiden remained alive, the child would not die due to their nanomachine link, but that didn't stop the Patriots from taking action directly should it ever become clear that Philanthropy had Olga and they were moving against them.

There was a bit of a chance that they could possibly get away since things weren't being protected by the U.S. Military, military affairs seemed to be switching more and more to the private sector. Since it was a business to them, if something went wrong but didn't cause a big enough mess to warrant word of what happened to go public, they wouldn't release a report to their clientele, including whatever dummy company the Patriots used to request the protection of the info they had tried to obtain.

Either way, there was nothing else that could be done there. It was time to leave and head back to the drawing board.


(The Next Day – Nightfall – Interior Alaskan Wilderness)

"So how was your date?" Otacon seemed far too excited about the return of the outgoing party of soldiers, especially since they had come back empty-handed information-wise once again. The fact that he was honestly interested in how Naruto and Olga had gotten along on the mission was sort of creepy.

They hadn't been the only ones dispatched. Sniper Wolf had gone along as a scout and to cover them and keep them informed on movement from the outside of the facility. Johnny was their extraction driver. Meryl was Wolf's close-range guard and the primary fighter in case things happened to where direct combat was needed.

It wasn't like they'd driven in the moonlight together or something. There hadn't even been any moonlight that night.

Naruto didn't rise to the 'date' remark in the slightest, simply leveling the most deadpan expression onto the perpetrator that he could, "Right. A date. Because when I think about romance, it always involves sneaking around military bases and digging through their electric files."

Otacon simply shrugged as he saw Naruto sit down on the front steps of their rustic temporary hideout, a place that Naruto knew well as it was where he'd spent the early portion of his time in this world. The home of the late Master Miller.

It was big enough for all of them to live in comfortably, it was out of the way, it was off the grid, it easy to watch out for enemies from and set up security measures around. It had all of the amenities that you could need when you were trying to stay out of sight and out of mind. For a short time before leaving they could make do with that place as their base.

Not for long of course, but it was as good a safe place as any to start planning their map moves.

"Well I think it's as close as you two are going to get to one," Otacon said with a friendly smile, sitting down next to Naruto on the front stoop, "After all, you can't exactly go out in public without heavily disguising yourself. You're supposed to be dead, and you were highly publicized when it happened."

He had been more chipper in attitude ever since reuniting with Sniper Wolf and his sister Emma. He might have been an accessory to a pair of 'dead terrorists', but as far as that went, life was good for him. It was nice that someone felt like they were coming out on top these days, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy in Otacon given the circumstances.

His romantic spirit had come back full-bore however, and for the past year it had been extremely annoying to the two people he'd been trying to drop it on; Naruto and Olga. The former more than the latter, because Olga wasn't above slugging him in the belly when he got too overbearing for her tastes.

"It's not that," Naruto said, glaring at the wilderness surrounding his old master's property that served as something of a blanket of darkness between them and the rest of the world for the time being, "What kind of slimeball do you think I am?"

"Huh?" Otacon was completely confused. What was slimy about showing someone that you cared about them?

"She's got Sunny to think about and focus on," Naruto explained, idly forming a Rasengan in his right hand, turning it on and off randomly. He could waste his chakra like that if he wanted to. It was his damn it, "Even if I could do something to take her mind off of what's going on, it's still screwed up to try. I don't have the right. That's what's important right now, getting the baby back. Not me trying to get Olga into bed."

Otacon sheepishly adjusted the glasses on his face, suddenly realizing that this method of thinking from Olga was probably what prompted her to hit him so hard when he started harping on it around her, "…Ahem, I see you've thought about this quite a bit."

"Of course I have," Naruto groused, "What else do I have to do between planning and running these stupid info raids and looking over our shoulders? There isn't that much."

The damn love-love crap could wait until there wasn't a cloud hanging over the woman's head the size of the one over Amegakure. There was a more pressing issue than the chance of getting Miss Olga as his legit lady, such as her missing daughter.

If he bedded her while she was in the state of mind prompted by the search for Sunny, it wouldn't have been what he wanted. Not with her. If it happened like this it would have been out of a sort of need that didn't propagate a healthy bond. Naruto didn't want her to get with him because she needed physical comfort that badly, he wanted her to do it because she actually cared enough to carry on a real relationship with him.

He was never going to say that out loud though, to anyone. That was too cheesy to voice aloud. Especially to Otacon. The man would jump all over that sort of thing and play it up as some sort of romantic sentiment. It was more of Naruto actually showing a touch of realism than anything else really.

The two men sat outside in the mild weather before Naruto felt a sharp kick at his lower back and turned around with a glare to see Meryl standing over him, hands on her hips. She didn't say anything, instead tilting her head behind her and upwards.

She only got a raise of Naruto's eyebrow in return, causing her to sigh, "Go upstairs to your damn room. You're needed."

For what? Snake was still out on a hunting sojourn, Catherine would have come herself if she needed him, Emma always went to Otacon for what she wanted, Meryl never asked for any help ever, and Johnny was… doing whatever it was that he did in his spare time, "Am I really?"

"Okay, let me rephrase that. What else are you doing right now that you can't go up there anyway?"

"Good point. Whatever."

With that 'logical' argument presented to him, Naruto hopped up and trotted inside of the house to go and see what the hubbub for him from Meryl was all about. It didn't really matter. Almost anything was better sitting around and talking about something so irritating.

Once Naruto left, Otacon simply continued to sit there in silence before finding the guts to speak up and say something, "Sniper Wolf's been listening from the roof this whole time hasn't she?" It wasn't a question. He already assumed as much. Nobody just came to get Naruto in-person. They always yelled for him.

"Of course," Meryl said with a small smirk, "She's been scanning the perimeter with her rifle all day up there. What else is there to do around here? There isn't that much."


Normally, Naruto knew full well when he was walking into some sort of trap. He at least had half an idea if nothing else and knew what to look for to prepare himself for something nasty around the way. Hallways with 90 degree turns and no way to see around the corner, canyon paths that bottlenecked steeply, things like that. There were signs that subtly put him on alert.

Those sorts of things didn't exist when you surrounded yourself with people that you trusted and cared dearly for, but they should have.

When Naruto made it to his room and saw Olga standing in the middle of the floor, arms crossed and glaring straight at the doorway his first instinct was to turn a direct about face and head back from whence he'd came, but he knew that would only make things worse.

He was going to completely and utterly punish Meryl somehow later though, and anyone else who had a hand in forcing him together alone with Olga. He had a feeling that out of the seven other denizens living there in the house, four of them were co-conspirators. It wasn't that hard to figure out who.

With nothing left to do but resign himself to his fate, Naruto walked into the room and shut the door to give them some semblance of privacy. Leaning against the closed portal he gave her a once over and sucked his teeth.

"Huh, so that's where my Army shirt got off to. I was looking for that," She was indeed wearing the grey Army shirt Naruto had possessed since basic training, as well as a pair of small black shorts, "Are you going to go work out or do you just like wearing my clothes?"

His attempt to change whatever the original subject was going to be failed miserably. She was wearing his shirt though. She could keep it too, because she made it look way better than he ever did.

"You've been avoiding me," Olga started things off that simply in a cool tone of voice that seemed to have its own air of warning to it.

"Whoa-whoa-whoa," Naruto started, waving his hand in front of his face in order to get some things straight, "I haven't been avoiding you. If I'd been avoiding you, we wouldn't even be having this conversation right now because nobody would have been able to find me."

"You're a complete horse's ass," Olga deadpanned in return, her glare barely lessening on him, "You may not have been avoiding me directly, but I almost feel like this is the Dead Cell thing all over again. You're not avoiding me, but you're keeping your distance for whatever asinine reason."

"It's not asinine," Naruto reasoned, sitting down at his desk that had all of his weapons of choice spread out on top of it where he'd been cleaning and modding them, "I don't want you resenting me."

"More than I already do you mean?" She rebutted dryly.

"I'm being serious."

The bit of bite to his voice, prompted her to frown instead of maintaining her attempt to be angry. Naruto sat with his back to her as he began to strip his preferred pistol apart. Anything to keep his mind directly off of the conversation at hand.

He didn't elaborate any on what he'd just said to her, and that did nothing to fix either of their moods.

"Uzumaki, look at me," Olga sternly, eliciting a sigh from Naruto as he set the parts of his gun he'd been trying to clean down in order to turn and face her, "What the hell are you talking about, resenting you?" From the look on his face he was obviously considering the pros and cons of coming out with what he had to say, "Tell me."

In the end he decided that it didn't matter. As if there was anything he could say at this point that could possibly make Olga think any less of him. Her day-to-day opinion outside of battle was already pretty low.

"I trust you even though I know you're just as likely to put a bullet in my head as ask me what time it is," Naruto started to explain, despite the fact that a part of him thought that he could expect the former for what he was about to say, "The more time I spend around you, especially alone, the more I'll probably try to get with you."

"English isn't my first language. Clarify."

"I might try to hook up with you."

"Enough with the slang. What are you talking about?"

She wasn't the only one getting perturbed.

"I'm probably gonna try to get you to be with me, alright!? Romantically! Like in a relationship! Maybe even to fuck you if I think you're cool with that! I don't really know how else to say it subtly in a way you'll understand!"

Things turned out to be much more awkward than he'd originally anticipated this conversation to go. Fuck it. They were both adults, they had both had their share of carnal relations with other people in their time. It was out there now, so it was officially time to stop dancing around it. That was as blunt as he could possibly make things.

Instead of any sort of embarrassment or surprise, Olga merely palmed her forehead and paced around the room.

Naruto had his legs coiled to jump for an escape, just in case she was willing to make a lunge at him or something. She muttered to herself under her breath in Russian, and Naruto understood every word that was spoken loud enough for his very good ears to catch.

Eventually she came to a stop and faced him straight-up, "This is something you're just now wanting?"

"No… it's been for a while. Like, back before everything started spinning out of control."

"…And you couldn't have told me this three years ago before all of this started?"

Naruto hadn't been expecting that one at all, "Huh?"

Olga shook her head and turned to look out of the window with a wistful look on her face, "You are aware of the fact that pretty much every horrible thing that has happened to us probably wouldn't have happened at all had you never been blackmailed into separating from us and joining Dead Cell aren't you? I still blame myself for not putting my foot down on that by the way."

To his credit, Naruto was able to keep from taking offense to that. Almost. He still had to go up against it though, "There wasn't anything you could've done. I wouldn't have done it if I knew how things turned out now, but back then I figured I was as screwed as I was going to get and nobody would've stopped me."

"I mean it. I could have stopped you with three words."

"Bullshit. What three words?"

Deceived by how fast Olga was, even outside of her Cyborg Ninja suit, Naruto stiffened and froze as he felt Olga softly straddling his lap, arms around the back of his neck, "I need you," She said, planting a long, soft kiss on Naruto's forehead, "…I still do by the way."

She then proceeded to get up and audibly slap him while he had still been stunned by her admission. He'd barely even registered that he'd been hit other than the turning of his head and the burning red handprint rapidly forming and fading on his face.

Her fingertips gently traced the bruise that she'd just created before removing her hand and leaving him where he sat.

"I meant that," Olga said just before departing the room, lingering at the door to look back at the blond one last time, "The only thing you could do now to get me to resent you is something you've already done before. So don't avoid me again. It hurt the first time, it would have hurt even more this time, and I don't need that right now."

Having spoken her parting words, she shut the door and left Naruto with a state of mind that had been devastated via precision emotional airstrike. That one hit hard. That one hit harder than anything else that had been thrown his way in a long time, and he was year removed from personally exterminating the majority of his old unit.

At times like this, his thoughts drifted back to the odd ghost named 'The Sorrow' that he had seen twice, once before ever appearing in this world and once before waking up to be experimented on by Dr. Clark.

He remembered being told that he would experience much hardship. Man, had that been the understatement of the decade. But then the ghost had also said that he would be watching him.

"Well I hope you're at least getting a hell of a show ya jerk," Naruto said to The Sorrow, flipping off the sky behind the ceiling before rubbing at the soreness of his face and the fact that Olga had managed to 'stimulate' him physically, "Kami, I've got to be sick to be in love with that kind of a woman."

He swore he could hear a phantasmal laugh in his ears that sent a chill down his spine at the thought. He still despised the thought of spirits amongst them, "I was too…" The Sorrow's voice glided through his head, almost like a whisper, as if it were never even there.

…Fucking ghosts.

So it's done. The Big Shell arc is complete, and I know it took a while, but I had to rewrite the whole thing from scratch without the notes I'd taken on the story, so I had to manufacture things from memory of what I wanted and a reinterpretation of what I'd already written. It was incredibly annoying, but that doesn't matter.

So for those of you MGS savvy you can tell what I've done and how that would affect certain things, so let's see what I can do with that in the coming chapters. Next arc will be the rise of the War Economy and the ordeals undertaken to save Olga's daughter.

Now I'm going to try and get some more writing done elsewhere while I'm on something of a roll. I hope you enjoyed. Later guys.

Kenchi out.