Episode 4 – Issues.

Ocelot's right hand had healed as quickly as he thought it would after Snake had given him Mend. Just as he had predicted, it held his new appendage together and eradicated the enormous infection he'd developed shortly after the neglectful operation that had been staged against him. Using his connections, Ocelot ensured that the doctor who had taken money from an associate of his would have a very difficult time doing anything for a while since all records of his existence had been erased. He had then pulled the contact who had betrayed him out of the game.

Wearing Liquid's hand again was making life much more difficult for him. Ocelot was concerned that the alter-ego he had worked so hard to develop would awaken now that a part from the man he had gone to great lengths to impersonate was helping him give bad drivers the bird. He had ordered a replacement from a private organization that loved playing around with stem-cells, but it would take about a month to arrive. In the meantime, Ocelot just had to remind himself that Liquid was an inert thought form that was no longer needed in light of recent events.

Life in Alaska had returned to normal and his master scheme was progressing smoothly. It wouldn't be long until everything was finally ready. Now was the perfect time for Liquid to throw a fit. Ocelot was ready to try anything to keep that from happening. A new hobby would hopefully keep him distracted until his new hand arrived.

Ocelot needed something mindless and mundane to serenate him into a coma. He looked to Otacon for inspiration and decided anime might be enough to dull his senses and kill a few brain cells. Fortunately for Ocelot, his shopping list had grown to the point where it could no longer be avoided in favor of helping the FBI and KGB kidnap helpless people of interest. He usually was not fond of making a trip for one item since he believed that the Internet was a better place for spontaneous purchases.

His nearest outlet to all things Japanese was a store in the Shopety-Shop-Shop Mall called CropShop, where one was always certain to reap a bountiful harvest of fun. He typically did his shopping in stores owned by franchises, but he needed to make an exception in this case for a greater selection of anime. Like most places in Alaska, the mall had never really adjusted to how short the days were. Among its unique aspects was that it allowed street performers of varying levels of expertise to sell their dignity in exchange for cash. Ocelot intentionally avoided the entrance where they congregated and entered the mall in style sporting the clothes he had worn during the tanker incident, complete with spurs on his cowboy boots and red gloves covering his hands. He had a bottle of his medicine on him in case something went terribly wrong.

The first store he visited was Craig's Rag Bag, which was a thrift shop that carried his kind of clothing. His best outfit had been destroyed when he was attacked during his diner party and he needed a replacement. Cartoons could wait. A swank leather trench coat that had seen a few shady deals made in the alleys behind several bars and a pair of stylish sunglasses immediately caught his attention.

He made his way to the changing rooms to see how powerful and important he looked while wearing the accessories he now carried. Ocelot noticed that a couple of college students were playing what the community called Rag Tag. The objective of the game was to run from the entrance of the shop clear to the back of the store, tag the wall, and get back outside before the clerk asked them if they needed any help. Nobody had ever won.

Rag Tag had recently been deemed inappropriate and the mall did not tolerate troublemakers. The trio had one guy on lookout ready to alert the others if the security guards suddenly appeared. A guard wearing a stealth camouflage clip suddenly decloaked an inch away from his face and put him into a headlock. A section of the floor in front of the store slid away. Five other guards dressed in gear that would make a SWAT team jealous emerged from the hole and stormed the store. Each guard carried an assortment of nonlethal equipment including some mace and a shotgun loaded with rubber bullets. Two of them had riot shields with the words 'obey' printed on the top and 'conform' on the bottom. The college kids realized what was happening and began screaming.

But it was already too late.

Within less than a minute two men were hauled out of the store with their hands ziptied behind their backs. The guards quickly escorted them to the front door. Ocelot was slightly impressed, especially when they rubbed some mace under the nose of the kid who told them that they weren't above the law. He had heard of these people before. They were a private security firm known as The League of Five. It was believed that they called themselves that because the total number of their members was divisible by five. Those working within the unit were sworn to secrecy and ordered to be silent while on the job. They ran a local monopoly and could be seen just about everywhere, even at birthday parties making balloon animals for kids and pretending to be mimes.

Ocelot loved his new look so much that he chose to wear the sunglasses and the trench coat immediately after he had purchased them. A pair of half gloves caught his eyes as he left the store. He didn't want people asking why one of his hands was brown and the other was white, but he bought them anyway for when he had disposed of Liquid's hand. He left Craig's and headed into CropShop.

Relics and treasures of the geek race surrounded him. Video games, music, figurines, novelty items. Cosplay outfits made locally by hand. There was a reason why Otacon got all misty eyed whenever somebody mentioned this store. Ocelot could smell Dorito's and Mountain Dew as he made his way toward the back of the shop where they kept the anime. It was darker back there than it was at the front of the store because they kept lava lamps and fluorescent tentacles on display right beside the anime.

Lucky Star. K-On. Pani Poni Dash. They all looked like garbage. A bunch of smiling high school girls wasn't enough to convince him to check the back of the cases. After fifth-teen minutes, he had picked three titles. Ghost in the Shell : Stand Alone Complex reminded him that transhumanism was inevitable. Neon Genesis Evangelion was a title he had found in Otacon's lab while he was busy retrieving the specs for Rex. Finally, the Samurai Pizza Cats sounded irredeemably idiotic, but he was drawn in by the idea of robot animals acting like the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

Ocelot's neck was already tingling as tiny hairs he had no urge to shave slowly emerged from under his skin. His plan was working. The clerk behind the counter was a pleasant one and assured him that the anime's he'd chosen were of good quality. Ocelot didn't respond. He wanted to get out of the store quickly because they were beginning to play techno music over the speakers.

The total came to about eighty dollars. As Ocelot reached for his wallet to fetch his debit card, his entire right arm went numb and limp. He grabbed it with his left hand and tried to get it to work. Pain surged through every nerve of his body. He thought he was having a heart attack at first until he began thinking like someone he had once known.

Good God, I could really go for some scones! The tone of Ocelot's thoughts carried a familiar British ring to it. Is that techno music? Am I in a store or a club full of pretentious teenagers doped to the gills on ecstasy and valium?

Liquid had returned. Ocelot collapsed to his knees, momentarily paralyzed by fear. He'd taken the medicine exactly as instructed at the same time each and every day. Evidently that hadn't been enough. Living without Liquid for a few years and reminding himself that the persona wasn't real had amounted to nothing.

Oh, but I am real. Liquid assured him. The moment you thought of me, I became as real to you as anything else could possibly be.

"No!" Ocelot wailed. "Not now! Not in public!"

Give in, you wanker. I've got work to do.

"I'm not a wanker!" Ocelot shouted.

"I never said anything like that," the clerk assisting him said, reaching for a button underneath the counter that would call security.

This was hideously embarrassing and getting worse by the second. The fingers of his right hand were moving on their own. Ocelot controlled his panic and came up with an idea. He'd overdose on the pills. It was dangerous, but he'd done so before with other drugs and he was still standing. Besides, he couldn't risk Liquid gaining control and ruining everything he had done. Swallowing all of his pills in front of the clerk would give him plenty of motivation to summon the League. Ocelot needed to find the restroom.

"I'll be right back. I've got to use the restroom. When you get old, this sort of thing happens to your body," Ocelot said. "Your penis also shrivels up like a spoiled orange!" Liquid shouted through him.

Liquid's voice was still British. Nanomachines had helped him achieve Liquid's accent. He'd removed them when they were no longer needed. Draining nanomachines was a tricky procedure. Ocelot had seen three doctors to make sure that his blood was clean. If he survived this ordeal, he'd make sure to add their names to the list of sex offenders in their respective neighborhoods.

Ocelot ran as fast as he could to the restrooms. It drew a lot of attention from the mindless sheep trying to buy happiness. His right hand began slapping his face repeatedly. Ocelot lost his sense of direction and crashed into a map of the mall. Two fingers found their way up his nose and pushed forward as hard as they could. Ocelot pried his right arm away from his face and began beating his hand into the ground until it stopped acting like a face hugger. He could feel how painful this was, but he didn't care.

Liquid's will was beginning to dominate him. A new perspective suddenly formed and embedded itself into his mind. His name was Liquid Snake, not Revolver Ocelot. Ocelot was nobody. Liquid was now in charge of this body. Ocelot screamed as he felt the last bit of himself slip away.

"No!" Ocelot wailed.

He threw his right arm up in the air and walked backwards until he hit a wall. This made for quite an odd scene. All the people around him stopped and stared at him as if he were crazy. Three guards from the League appeared out of nowhere and began making their way towards him as two people began filming the impending confrontation. Liquid soothed his hair, keeping his cool. He then faced his audience.

"What's wrong with you people?" Liquid asked. "There's nothing to stare at!"

This confused them even more. The guards stopped in their tracks, unsure of what to do next. Liquid's voice didn't match his body, but that was irrelevant. What mattered was that Liquid had control of Ocelot's body. He knew most of what Ocelot knew since he had been delving for information the moment he had been reunited with Ocelot's body, but some bits and pieces of crucial secrets were still hidden deep inside of Ocelot's psyche.

The fingers on Liquid's left hand began moving randomly. He had come too far to lose this opportunity. Liquid braced himself for a fight.

"No, you don't!" Liquid threatened.

"Yes, I do!" Ocelot shouted, jerking his head to the left.

"Oh, I get it now," someone from the crowd stated. "He's a street performer who's imitating multiple personality disorder."

"I wanna see!" another person exclaimed.

Before Liquid knew it, a crowd of idiots had surrounded him. They were in for a good show. The conflicting mental battle was beginning to upset certain nerves inside Ocelot's brain that caused his body to react involuntarily. He began shaking as if a priest was trying to exorcise a demon from his soul. There was nothing either he or Ocelot could do about it until one of them had gained complete authority over the body they sought to control. Liquid hunched over and his shoulders wiggled. It was almost like something was trying to burst out of his back. It lasted for only a moment and got the crowd to gasp.

Liquid's left hand balled into a fist and punched him in the face. The sunglasses Ocelot had purchased earlier flew from his face and fell to the ground. This caused his spectators to roar in approval. He stumbled backward and fell flat on his butt, dizzy enough to pass out. Ocelot had one hell of a left hook.

"This is impossible! I am on medicine that would even out Jason Voorhees. How did you get past it?"

"Easy. I'm not crazy," Liquid said.

Liquid's left hand punched him in the nuts. A spasm from his brain caused him to do the splits against his will. The crowd then began taking sides on who they wanted to take over the body. Liquid was able to judge that more people were on Ocelot's side because the chants for the grandpa to win were louder than the one for the British guy. For some reason the little audience had also spontaneously come up with names for the two personalities. People referred to Ocelot as Jimmy and they gave Liquid the name of Bruce.

"Wow, this guy's really good!" some teenage girl said.

"Doesn't he know that street performances are restricted to the west end of the mall?" a member of the League asked his two buddies.

"Shut up, we're supposed to be sworn to silence!" the other guard with him said.

"You both shut up, we're breaking the oath!" the third one exclaimed.

"Damn it!" all three guards said together.

Liquid's left hand wrapped around his throat and began choking him. The crowd gasped but quickly began cheering again after the initial shock had passed. Liquid pried the hand off his throat. A finger on Ocelot's hand lunged forward and touched his uvula, causing Liquid to gag. Ocelot wasn't giving up. Liquid pulled his/their/Ocelot's finger out of his mouth. His neck jerked sharply enough to the left that it give him a whiplash.

"Why are you here?" Ocelot demanded.

Ocelot's neck jerked again, this time popping audibly. Now he was facing right.

"I intend to use your connections to create a state of perpetual warfare. I thought you knew that. This time I won't let anything stop me."

"I have a meat cleaver that would beg to differ."

Some of Ocelot's memories began flooding into Liquid's brain. This was bad news for Liquid. If he thought he was Ocelot, he would become Ocelot until he was able to figure differently. Liquid realized that he was nothing but a thought form that had gone horribly wrong. He was no longer needed for the purpose he had been created for. Ocelot had found an easier way to betray the people he was pretending to obey and give their power to someone who might be able to handle it.

Liquid tried to counter the attack by remembering primary school and several other embarrassing moments in his life that Ocelot had read in his file, which only served to reinforce that he was a fictitious interpretation of a man who had died shirtless. Ocelot subconsciously wanted to believe he was Liquid. At least that's what he had to keep telling himself to kill the character he had learned to imitate so well. Liquid's persona weakened considerably

"You haven't won this!" Liquid shouted as he was shoved into a repressed memory.

Ocelot was now back in charge of himself. He collapsed to his knees in exhaustion. Every part of his body ached and the group watching him had fallen silent. Revolver looked up at them and saw worried expressions on their faces. They were all waiting to see who had won the fight. He stood up slowly and dusted himself off.

"Jimmy wins," Ocelot said, performing his hand gesture while doing so.

The crowd cheered for Jimmy and they began throwing money at Ocelot. Even the security guards joined in on the fun, but they threw gift certificates instead. Those that had bet on Bruce quickly left the scene, slightly disappointed and carrying empty wallets. Ocelot collected the money and thumbed through the cash while his audience returned to what they had been doing prior to his psychotic break. He had earned fifty-seven dollars. It was chump change, but more than he had seen any other performer at the mall earn.

Ocelot's sunglasses had miraculously survived their fall. He put them back on and continued on his journey to the porcelain halls of sweet relief. He arrived without any further fanfare. One gentleman was in the back stall making noises that robbed him of any dignity that he was trying to maintain. Aside from that, Ocelot was alone. The ungodly symphony of flat notes reminded him of someone he hadn't been keeping track of since their last encounter.

"Johnny?" Ocelot called.

There was no reply. The man dying in the back stall had to be somebody else. Ocelot stood in front of the sink and took his medicine out of his pants pocket. There were eight pills left. Ocelot held the bottle of pills in his left hand and struggled to get the stupid cap off. When he finally managed to open the bottle, his right hand seized the container and tossed it to the left where it sailed into a urinal. It then punched him in the solar plexus and lunged for the urinal's lever. His possessed hand flushed the urinal even though Ocelot did not intend to pick the pills out of the urinal cake. Any alligators lurking in the sewers underneath the city would be mellow for the next few days.

He was starting to get a little worried. Ocelot leaned over the sink and looked at himself in the mirror.

"Don't panic. Don't throw up," Ocelot said to his reflection.

Ocelot's right hand fiddled with his lips while he thought about what he needed to do next. He had planned ahead in case he ever found himself compromised. Ocelot could restrict his access to the network operated by the Patriots by telling them to ignore him for a little while. His immediate contacts would lose faith in him and it would take at least two weeks for him to get back on the grid, but it was better than having Liquid leak information about Area 51 to France. Arranging to have the hand removed, getting a new bottle of pills, and warning Snake were also tasks that would need to be taken care of.

He took a special cell phone that was two years ahead of the leading civilian model and used the touchscreen to dial a specific international number. Ocelot set the phone down on the counter, enabled speaker phone, and caught his right hand before it could swat the phone aside. He intentionally dislocated the thumb on his right hand and grunted in pain while he waited for a specific series of beeps that would occur exactly twelve seconds into the call. Once he heard the right tone, he began saying letters and numbers that were a part of a complicated code that would only be used once. Just like that, he was flagged by the Patriots and most of his colleagues. All Liquid could do now was use his debit card to buy six hundred Fleshlights and pester his lesser henchmen.

Ocelot popped his thumb back into place and retrieved his phone. He left the restroom, eager to be rid of the smell and the man in the back stall who still sounded like he was playing a tuba stuffed with watergate salad. He hurried back to CropShop, inadvertently groping himself in front of children along the way. He tried to compensate for these actions by telling himself that he wanted to do them. Liquid wasn't trying to regain control. There was nothing quite as liberating as fiddling with his genitals in public. Three bikers emerged from a Bath and Body Works ahead of him and Ocelot flipped them off. He totally meant to do that. The ragged bikers thankfully didn't attack him and merely watched in confusion as Ocelot walked passed them and bit off a chunk of Liquid's knuckle. Through the glove he was wearing.

By the time he had arrived back at CropShop, he had taken on the appearance of a man who had been using meth for three years. Ocelot paid for his goods at the expense of the world with a credit card backed directly by his employer. He wasn't going to let Liquid spoil his new hobby that he was suddenly quite interested in. Unlike the red-headed step-child of the Big Boss clones, Ocelot could appreciate a show where the breasts and physical appearance of the protagonist fluctuated dramatically between episodes. He was just that desperate to remain who he was.

Ocelot rushed out to his vehicle. He drove a silver second generation Oldsmobile Tornado from the early seventies with most of its original features still intact, including the tacky eight track player just in case he ever wanted to jam out to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Ocelot was deeply in love with the vehicle. He had tweaked the handling of the car until it could weave in and out of tight spots like a Japanese porn star. The idea of letting Liquid take it for a spin filled him with so much terror that he almost started crying to express how hopeless he felt.

There were some things certain people just didn't get. Snake wasn't very good with computers. Meryl couldn't play video games. Otacon didn't eat anything that wasn't pre-made. Liquid had been in so many wrecks that he had permanently lost his license in the state of California and the entire country of Germany. It was no small wonder that he had failed to operate a Metal Gear. There was no conceivable way that he could ever drive stick, which made matters worse since Ocelot's transmission was manual and most of the directions on the knob had been lost to time.

Ocelot thought about calling somebody and asking them for a ride, but if they didn't get there fast enough Liquid might wind up driving his vehicle anyway. He needed to get home and then he would have Snake hook him up to his own rack until he finally managed to get Liquid out of his system. Snake would definitely have fun with that.

After getting into his car, he decided to have Snake meet him at his house. He tickled the screen of his cell phone until he reached the avatar of a boa constrictor, which he pressed. The phone rang four times. Snake rarely let the delay pass two rings. He probably wasn't at home and Snake might have told Meryl not to answer his phone. The answering machine kicked in.

"This is Plisken. Leave a message," Snake said.

Using the same alternate identity repeatedly was eventually going to get him into trouble, but Ocelot would tell him that later.

"Snake, this is Ocelot. We've got a major problem on our hands. Liquid is. . ."

Being near Snake had tickled Liquid before. Talking to him was about the same as being near him, at least for the fragment of insanity in Ocelot's troubled brain that was causing all this drama. Liquid surged forth and pushed Ocelot out of the way.

"Brother, long time no talkie! Wait a minute, that didn't come out right. Hold on," Liquid cleared his throat. "String up some balloons because I'm back in town."

Liquid hurled the cell phone out the window and directly into the passenger's side of a truck still in motion. The driver had his window down and was struck by the oncoming phone. He veered to the left, mounting the curb and crashing into the side of the mall. It was a good time to leave. Liquid took the keys to the vehicle out of Ocelot's pocket and started the car. He glared at the stick shift for a moment before he popped open the glove box in search of a manual. There was none.

"Damn bloody damn it," Liquid said.

He let his head fall forward on the steering wheel, causing the car horn to beep, which made him jump about five feet. After he had settled down, Liquid sat back in the seat and began thinking of a solution.

"Well, I'll eventually find reverse and if I don't I can cut through the wall of fiberglass in front of me with this metal beast," Liquid said to himself. "Where's the parking brake?"

About thirty years into the future. Ocelot said in Liquid's mind.

"I knew that, you senile coot!"

Ocelot found enough ground to use his own voice again thanks in no small part to the rage he was experiencing. The head jerking they encountered earlier back in the mall was back with a vengeance. Neither of them seemed to mind. Their anger smothered the pain.

"Senile?" Ocelot asked. "Who do you think you're calling senile?"

"I don't know, who's the only other person in this body?" Liquid replied.

Liquid's left hand opened the driver's side door. The entire left side of his body swung itself out of the car and unto the hard pavement. Liquid stood up and put his fist through the window of the rear door. That hurt Ocelot more than the first time he had lost his hand. At his wits end, Liquid pulled a chunk of glass from the jagged remnants of the window and jabbed it into his left wrist. The two men screamed together as Liquid dug the glass into his own flesh.

"You're going to kill us both," Ocelot said.

"I'm going across the road, not down the river," Liquid retorted.

Liquid heard sirens in the distance that distracted him to the point where Ocelot surged forth and took over. He tossed aside the piece of bloody glass and crawled back into his vehicle. Across the way, three people had surrounded the truck that had crashed into the side of the mall. The driver had exited the vehicle unscathed and was holding Ocelot's cell phone.

One of the good Samaritans was looking right at him. Judging by the expression on the woman's face, Ocelot was certain that she had watched him cut himself. He deliberately ignored her and drove away from the scene of the crime. The woman tried to take a picture of his license plate, but Ocelot swerved in and out of the open spaces between the parked vehicles in the lot to avoid her camera until he was out of range.

Since having an attack in traffic could be potentially fatal, Liquid stopped throwing a fit. It gave Ocelot enough time to remember that he might have stolen a red rotary phone from the Grand Kremlin Palace at some point during his time with the KGB a few days before Kennedy was assassinated, which meant that he could still call Snake for help. If he did have the phone, it was more than likely in his basement and finding it would undoubtedly involve a scuffle with Liquid. Asking one of his neighbors if he could borrow their phone for a minute was a last resort.

Ten minutes later, Ocelot pulled into his driveway. He immediately went down into his basement in search of the phone. Liquid was laying dormant, waiting for the right opportunity to attack. Ocelot had a plan for that, but first he needed to find the phone. The first box he opened in his storage room contained a burlap sack full of thumbscrews and an authentic vampire hunting kit. The second box was full of documents he had been meaning to scan into one of his computers. Many of them had fallen out of their folders. Ocelot spotted the first page concerning the Kennedy assassination and dug deeper into the box. He found what he was looking for at the bottom of the container next to a rock that had come from the moon.

Ocelot scrambled up the stairs and rushed into his living room. He sat the rotary phone on his coffee table and shoved his couch a little to the left so he could get in at the phone line he paid for, but never used. Once everything was connected, he rushed into his bathroom and raided the medicine cabinet. Ocelot had managed to get some oxycodone from one of his contacts to help ease the pain of his recent surgery and half a pill had immediately reduced him to a drooling idiot, which had come as quite a surprise since medications for pain usually did nothing for him. Mend had given him quite a trip, but taking another dose of it would send his body into shock since the circulatory system of the average person couldn't handle too many of the same type of nanomachine and the colony that functioned inside Mend wouldn't die until at least a month had passed from the time of his last shot.

He reached for the bottle with his left hand. Ocelot's right hand tore the fancy shades off his face and lunged for some expensive cologne that he kept on the shelf beneath his medicine. Liquid's hand managed to pop the cap off and threw some of the fragrant juice into his eyes. Ocelot recoiled and took a few steps back while the cologne made his eyes smell manly. He tried to rub it out, but that only made it worse. Ocelot backed up into the rim of his bathtub, lost his balance, and fell into the tub.

On the way down, he smacked his head hard on the temperature knob controlling the flow of hot water. A torrent of boiling rain covered his face. Ocelot flailed around in the tub for a moment and almost drowned before he managed to move away from the faucet. He had hit his head rather hard and was quite dizzy. Liquid used this to his advantage and regained consciousness. It took him a moment to close the water valve.

Liquid crawled out of the tub and used the granite countertop to pull himself back on his feet. He had a moment to look at Ocelot's reflection in the mirror that was attached to the medicine cabinet. His face was red and covered in scrapes and bruises. The gel that kept his handlebar mustache looking extra pretentious had been washed out. His braided hair, which he resorted to emasculating measures to care for, was an absolute mess. Liquid opened the cabinet and pushed the mirror against the wall. Ocelot was an ugly man and focusing on his ugliness for too long would allow him to gain advantage over Liquid. He grabbed the container of oxycodone and flushed all of the pills down the drain. Now Ocelot had nothing other than his own wit to use against Liquid.

He braced himself for another meltdown, but his left hand remained motionless. Ocelot was on the ropes, but Liquid needed to be careful as he formulated his revenge since Ocelot wasn't going to let him ruin everything without a fight. He was cut off from the Patriots, but there was still one thing that he could do that would aggravate them to the point of a flagrant system error. Their favorite pawn was Solid Snake. Even Ocelot still had use of him. Liquid hadn't yet figured out all the details, but Ocelot wasn't trying to befriend him out of the goodness of his heart.

Unlike the typical clone of Big Boss, Solid Snake had a great amount of luck, which was something that couldn't be replicated. While they could always make another one, it still wouldn't be Solid Snake. The copy might attempt to fight another soldier in a small room full of active landmines, but it would probably come out in a mayonnaise jar. Liquid knew that he should have killed Snake when he had had the chance, but Liquid had been certain of his victory at the time and had wanted Snake to live to see it.

Liquid needed a weapon and Ocelot had plenty of them in his gun cabinet. None of them were what Liquid wanted. Ocelot owned six different types of Winchester rifles, a shotgun that hadn't been fired since California had become a state, and several Colt Single Action Army revolvers. Liquid also spotted a Makarov PM that looked very out of place alongside the other weapons that had been used during the days of the Wild West. Apparently, it was too much to ask for a Dragunov or even a Mosin Nagant.

Snake would be expecting him. He'd have to bet on Snake using a nonlethal method to take him down so that Snake could save Ocelot. That is, if Snake wanted to save Ocelot. Liquid was sure that Snake would. Kind of. He couldn't think of anything better. Liquid decided to bring a revolver along since barging in with a shotgun would be uncharacteristic of Ocelot. If he could trick Snake into believing that nothing was wrong, he would have the precious minute he needed to kill him. He examined a few of them until he finally settled on an artillery model manufactured in 1873. It wasn't compatible with a speed loader, but if Liquid failed to kill Snake after six shots he'd beat him to death with a garden hose or whatever he could get his hands on.

That's when he realized that he didn't know where Snake lived. Liquid risked recalling one of Ocelot's memories to see if he knew anything about it. Ocelot had driven out to Snake's home at one point and had written down the directions in a moleskin notebook he kept in his study since the route to Snake's house was a mysterious one indeed. Google hadn't gotten around to mapping the street he lived on just yet. Such were the benefits of living in the country. Liquid went into Ocelot's study, sabotaged the bonsai bush he found, and retrieved the notebook.

The journal was in Russian, which Liquid had no trouble reading. Ocelot had spent a lot of time following everyone who had gotten mixed up in his life. The journal was numbered and dated. All of the information inside was recent. It wasn't properly organized, but Ocelot had used a couple of different highlighters to mark important passages. Liquid began reading and quickly discovered that Ocelot deliberately kept his notes jumbled so that only he knew what he was talking about.

- Hal Emmerich. Oddball. A little too obsessed with pleasuring himself to fake women. Most definitely a lolicon. Information successfully redacted from FBI and FEMA, no longer on any lists. Does not currently have the means to access the network, but could easily do so if given the chance.

- Mei Ling. Ditz.

- Naomi Hunter. Pacified, still working with the nano's. Snake gave her a lot of money to find a cure for his glitched strain of FOXDIE. Hasn't managed to do very much. Cries a lot.

- Roy Campbell. No comment.

- Meryl Silverburg. See Roy Campbell. Multiply by two.

- Raiden. Whiny. It's notable enough to put down twice. Maybe even three times. He's whiny. Very whiny. Snake's foil. Skilled, but naïve.

- Olga. Annoying. Can't believe she was in the program. Patriots have been acting funny lately, but replacement for GW still in development. Corpse is obsessed with finding her daughter. Idiots didn't burn that out like I asked. Important! Remove her daughter from the program, place under care of number six because that would be funny. Daughter is potentially useful.

- Solid Snake. Boorish and despondent, as usual. Drone Icarus finally in place above home. He hooked up with Meryl. Must keep him alive, must earn his trust. FOXDIE is still a major concern.

The information Liquid needed was beneath the entry of Solid Snake along with several doodles predicting how Snake might change his appearance. They weren't too horrible and it surprised Liquid that Ocelot knew how to draw. He kept flipping through the notebook out of interest to see what else he could find.

- The Bane of my Existence. Deliberate betrayal, responsible for loss of hand and all of my misery, will kill later cannot kill now too much at stake.

- Vulcan Raven. Not a part of current scenario, leftover from sabotaged plot like the rest of them. Of note : Interesting YouTube personality focus on fitness and meditation.

- Rose and Raiden Junior on bench, potentially useful but probably not worth effort.

- Psycho Mantis. Director of Praying Mantis, psychiatric institute. Traffics psychedelics as a hobby, so much for civilian lifestyle. Incredibly allergic to vanilla. Important! Can't get a doctor to write me a script for Haloperidol to keep Liquid at bay, Mantis will supply anyway, didn't ask questions when I said I needed some, called me a pal and joked about Donald Anderson RIP. Potentially useful.

He wondered if one of his former cohorts would come to his aid. They probably knew that Liquid was supposed to be dead. Even if they didn't, they took orders from Ocelot these days, so talking to them wouldn't do him much good. Liquid knew that his voice was perfectly emulated with the aid of nanomachines, so there was no reason he couldn't sound like Ocelot if he wanted to. He cleared his throat and tried it.

"I'm Ocelot and I am such a tool," Liquid said in a tone that sounded a bit like Ocelot would if he had a bad cold. "I wish I could be honest with myself and wander around my house in nothing but a fursuit."

That was the best that he could do. It probably wasn't enough to fool Snake, but it was certainly worth a try. Mantis seemed like a good place to start and if he could convince him to come along for the ride he really wouldn't have to call anybody else. He dialed the number on the rotary phone and waited for Mantis to pick up.

"Who's this?" Mantis asked.

"Mantis, this is Ocelot," Liquid said in a raspy tone that was beginning to shake his confidence. "Listen, there's been a change in plans. We need to go kill Solid Snake."

"Sure, do you want me to pick you up?"

Liquid dropped the phone in disbelief and almost dropped it again when he picked it up off the floor.

"Sorry about that. Sure, come and – "

He didn't have a chance to finish. Mantis started laughing hysterically.

"What's so funny?"

"Meryl already called everyone and told them that you're schizophrenia is acting up, Ocelot. Get a hold of yourself. Remember how we all used to pretend to like Liquid and then when he would leave the room we would make fun of everything he had just said to us?"

"What?" Liquid asked, dropping his impersonation. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"What else were we supposed to do for fun while we waited to get our money besides watch him act like an idiot?"

"Putting that aside for the moment, why would you be opposed to the idea of killing Solid Snake? He killed you!"

"Yeah, that bothered me for a little while, but I got over it. Ocelot, you're going to get yourself hurt if you keep this up."

"I am not Ocelot! I am Liquid Snake!"

"Wow, you really are in bad shape, aren't you? Would you like an antipsychotic? There's plenty of them out there."

"Bugger off!"

Liquid slammed the phone into its cradle as hard as he could.

"If you want anything done, you have to do it yourself," Liquid said to himself.

Only now that he had finished talking to Mantis did he realize that it was a terrible idea in the first place. Mantis might come to Snake's aid and he wouldn't be the only person willing to help. Time was of the essence. Liquid needed to get to Snake's house before anyone else did. He decided to take the notebook with him and retrieved a holster for the revolver he had stolen before he embarked on his quest for revenge.

The only thing that stood between him and the road was Ocelot's vehicle. After crashing into Ocelot's garage, Liquid figured out how to reverse the car. He took out a fire hydrant before finding first gear.

"Where are the directions for this thing?" Liquid shouted.

X

Somewhere in the sky was a UAV. Snake had learned to develop a sixth sense for that sort of thing after the second time he had barely survived an airstrike. He took a drag from the cigarette he was smoking and pointed right at the flying menace even though he couldn't see it from the ground. It made him feel a little better to acknowledge the fact that he was being watched.

"David!" Meryl called.

His new roommate had taken to using his real name since they started living together, a situation brought on by the fact that she wasn't looking for a new apartment after the one she had been renting had been burnt down to the ground, which was fine with him since she helped out with things around the house. Snake put the unfinished cigarette in his pocket ashtray and stepped back inside his house. Meryl was in the living room working with a laptop Otacon had given her.

"Campbell and Mantis are on Skype. They want to talk to you."

"Yeah, but he doesn't want to talk to us," Mantis said.

"Hey, you read my mind," Snake said.

"That's so original," Mantis said.

Snake sat down beside Meryl on his couch and took the laptop from her. He was signed in as Meryl, which made him wonder how long she would leave Campbell unblocked. Meryl pointed to where the microphone was on the laptop. Both Campbell and Mantis were on audio only, which was nice since they weren't beautiful men.

"Ocelot just called me and asked if I wanted to help him kill you," Mantis said.

"Did you say no?" Snake asked.

"Of course I said no. I'm sure he's on his way to your house right now. Would you like me to come over?"

"No thanks. I already put some claymores in my driveway."

"I'm glad you're taking this so seriously. Ocelot might just take a shot at you," Campbell said. "Mantis believes that if you can convince Ocelot that Liquid isn't real, you'll bring him back to his senses."

"I knew that already, but thanks for thinking so much about me. Is that it? Will you stop trying to call me now?" Snake asked.

"Yes. Please be careful, Snake," Campbell replied. "Meryl, could you stay online and keep us updated?"

The computer chimed and displayed a distressing notification.

"Raiden just signed on," Snake said.

A message box appeared on top of all the other windows. Raiden's screen name appeared, burning three dead pixels into the screen due to how corny it was.

LordofThunder : Hey Meryl, what's happening?

"Quick, set yourself to away," Mantis said.

"No, I'll talk to him," Meryl said reluctantly.

LordofThunder : Otacon says that Ocelot has gone crazy again. Does Snake need some stun grenades? I still have a few dozen.

Snake missed the days before he had friends. Back then, he'd been able to enjoy a small amount of personal privacy. Snake typed a message and sent it.

RedDeadGorgeous : Jack, I think you're so cute.

LordofThunder: Right back atcha, Snake. So, do you need those grenades?

Sadly, being gullible didn't necessarily make a person stupid. Snake disconnected from the audio chat and gave the laptop to Meryl.

"What's our plan?" she asked.

"Go get the machete. I'll grab the shotgun."

X

Liquid almosthated the stick shift as much as he despised Big Boss. On the way to Snake's house he had hit three parked cars while he tried to find first gear. His horrible driving skills seemed to aggravate the car. It somehow became even more difficult to drive, almost as though it was purposefully annoying him. When he finally escaped the city, he turned two deer's into road jelly and almost slid into a ditch when he crossed a patch of black ice. It was difficult for Ocelot to watch his car suffer, but he did not attempt to stop Liquid from ruining his vehicle. He had been thinking about getting a new paint job anyway.

Eventually Liquid managed to find Snake's house. As Liquid drew closer to his target, he began doubting himself. The odds were against him. All he needed was the slightest speck of the luck he possessed to win this fight. Liquid had survived a helicopter crash, a fall from a Metal Gear, and a deadly virus. That wasn't all he had managed to walk away from during his career as a soldier.

Then again, most of his fortune consisted of him surviving mishaps that would kill a normal person. Very little of it had anything to do with the type of situation he was in now. Liquid wasn't worried about dying. He was concerned that he would fail.

Liquid pulled into Snake's driveway and fiddled with the transmission. Even though he was certain that he had put it in park, the vehicle edged forward until it rammed into Snake's garage. Liquid took out his revolver and pulled back the hammer as he approached the front door. Three beanbag rounds fired from a Mossberg tactical shotgun struck his back. Liquid cried out in agony and pulled the trigger of the revolver as he fell to his knees. The round struck Snake's house, ricocheted like almost every bullet fired by Ocelot seemed to do, and hit him in his right shoulder. Liquid dropped the gun, but his assailant fired another beanbag round at his right arm just to add insult to injury.

The front door opened and Meryl stood before him, flaunting a machete and grinning. Liquid was shoved face first into the ground and then frisked. Meryl picked up the revolver, took out the bullets, and began stripping it. Liquid groaned in humiliation and agony. Somewhere nearby, a caribou responded to the call, thinking that a potential mate was in the area.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid. Do you know how long I had a clear shot at you?" Snake asked as he began restraining Liquid's hands and feet with twist ties. "Meryl, go get my med kit."

"Are you sure you just don't want to rub a ration on it?"

Snake nodded and Meryl went off to fetch the item.

"Tell me. Wasn't Chicken the lowest rank you could get in FOXHOUND?" Snake asked Liquid.

"I don't remember. It was a needlessly complicated system."

"Whatever, Revolver Chicken."

Now that the excitement was over, Ocelot easily shoved Liquid aside.

"Don't lump me in with him!" Ocelot exclaimed.

"By the way, thanks for putting on some cologne before you came over. Not only do you look like an idiot, you smell like one, too," Snake said.

Snake lifted Ocelot in a fireman's carry just as Meryl arrived with the kit he had requested. Liquid was carried into Snake's bathroom and placed inside the bathtub so his blood could be washed down the drain. Snake cut through Ocelot's clothing and began treating the wound.

"What's on your mind, Liquid?" Snake asked.

"Do you have any idea what it's like to be – " Liquid began before he was interrupted.

"I seem to recall that you were captured during the Gulf War. What was that like?"

"Horrible."

"Really? Are you sure about that? What did they do to you?"

Liquid tried to remember his time in captivity. All he could recall was that he had been captured. He couldn't figure out how it had occurred. Such an event should have stuck with him. Most of his memories seemed to be restricted to what had been in his personal file. He should have been able to remember every little detail about the cell he had spent so much time in.

"Do you know why you can't remember?" Snake asked as he pulled a bullet out of Ocelot's arm. "Because you're not Liquid."

Snake flicked the spent round at Ocelot's face. Liquid was still struggling to find an explanation for his jumbled memories when one suddenly came to him.

"Ocelot had my blood drained from his body. That's why I can't remember. There are still some of my nanomachines floating around in this husk. At least I have that much."

"But Liquid is dead and buried. He's a skeleton by now. You are still you, Ocelot. Liquid is just a character in your head. You could almost be the best method actor on the planet if you hadn't cheated and played around with nanomachines."

"I exist!" Liquid insisted.

"You might want to think a little harder about that."

"You're one to talk. You're a clone!"

"I know. I'm a copy of Big Boss, but at the same time I am not Big Boss. There's more of myself in me than there is in you. In a way, I'm more real than you are right now."

"Pretty deep, isn't it?" Meryl asked.

Ocelot visibly deflated as all of Liquid's energy left him a broken man in a bathtub.

"Oh, bollocks!" Liquid exclaimed.

"See that machete Meryl is carrying?" Snake asked. "I hacked through fifty miles of Thailand with that blade. It's still sharp and Meryl has a mean swing for a girl. Do you see where I'm going with this?"

"I won't try to kill you again," Liquid said.

"At least for now, right?" Snake asked, smiling. "You're lucky you just got out of the hospital, Ocelot. I'd hack that hand off right now, but I'm worried about how well you'd take another traumatic injury."

"You're paying for our garage," Meryl said.

"Not my problem," Liquid said.

There had to be an argument somewhere that supported Liquid's beliefs and desires, but he couldn't think of one. Even if he did, he was sure that Snake could refute his argument and they would wind up debating the nature of existence until they were both out of breath. Liquid regretfully consented and took up residence inside one of the grooves of Ocelot's hippocampus where he immediately encountered an existential crisis that led to ego death before he could quote Kierkegaard.

Ocelot regained complete awareness and control of his own actions. The nightmare was finally over and now he needed to figure out how he was going to fix everything.

"There is nothing I can say that will make up for how I ruined your day," Ocelot said.

Snake used a tactical knife to cut Ocelot's bonds while Meryl kept the shotgun pointed at her least favorite person in the room. An awkward silence filled the air as Snake helped Ocelot out of the bathtub and led him into the living room. The parts for his revolver were on a coffee table, but the bullets were missing. Ocelot put the gun back together and holstered it. He then prepared to leave without saying goodbye.

The front door swung open as it was kicked in and a blurry figure tackled Ocelot before he had a chance to react. A knee was pressed up against his throat as he was detained for the second time that day. Raiden was on top of him, dressed in civilian clothes and looking more androgynous than usual. He had an M9 aimed right at Ocelot's head that was presumably full of tranquilizer rounds.

"Don't move!" Raiden ordered. "I've got you now, Liquid."

"You're late to the party. I'm not Liquid," Ocelot gurgled.

"Nice try, but Mantis said you can sound like Ocelot if you want," Raiden said.

"Your knee is on my throat, you stupid putz!"

"Raiden, get off him," a new voice requested.

Mantis appeared, which only came as a shock to Snake because he hadn't yet accepted the fact that everyone knew where he lived. There had been rumors that he had recently undergone reconstructive surgery, but he was currently hiding his new look with the gas mask he had loved enough to name. Raiden got off Ocelot, but kept the gun aimed at his head while he stood on his feet.

"I can sense that you're still deluded," Mantis said. "Right about here, in fact."

He reached behind Ocelot's right ear and dug his finger into the side of his skull. It was like flicking a light switch. Liquid fell out of the groove he had been sulking in and seized Ocelot's mind once again.

"Don't touch me," Liquid said, swatting Mantis' arm away.

"I can help you get rid of that," Mantis said.

Ocelot dragged Liquid into his amygdala and closed the door.

"I wouldn't let you read my tea leaves. Stay away from me," Ocelot said.

"I thought he has implants in his brain that keep you from diving him," Snake said.

"He does, but there are ways around those."

"Don't even think about it," Meryl said. "What if you dive him too deep and we wind up with two Liquid's?"

"Point taken," Mantis said.

Ocelot left Snake's house without saying goodbye. Outside, his Oldsmobile was still trying to drive through the garage. His diary of top secrets was still where Liquid had left it. That was one less thing to worry about. Ocelot got into the vehicle and put it in reverse. Mantis waved at him to keep him from leaving and he had to resist running him over. Ocelot rolled down the window as Mantis reached into his fabulous trench coat and retrieved an unmarked bottle of pills.

"Here's your usual," Mantis said as he handed Ocelot the pills. "I hope it works. Oh, one more thing."

Mantis pulled a huge bottle of Jack Daniels out of his coat and handed it to Ocelot.

"Snake was thinking about giving you this, but he won't do it himself because psychology. So here you go."

He didn't expect to be thanked and went back into Snake's house. Ocelot tore out of Snake's driveway and headed home.

X

It had been quite a while since Ocelot had drunk whiskey straight from the bottle while taking a bath in a tub filled to the brim with hot water. No matter how hard he tried to relax, his joints still ached and he couldn't stop thinking about how difficult it was going to be to fix the mess Liquid had managed to create in the three hours he had been around. Ocelot hadn't bothered starting. As he became more intoxicated, Liquid's personality began bothering him to the point where he was completely willing to let Mantis poke around in his brain and learn secrets that would drive a normal man insane.

"What is it now?" Ocelot asked himself, giving in to the pressure.

"If we're going to be sharing the same body for the foreseeable future, I think it's time that you become familiar with one of my favorite hobbies," Liquid replied.

"And what might that be?"

"Masturbating to bestiality."

Ocelot's left hand dropped what was left of the whiskey in the tub and slowly reached for his junk while images of a cow wearing lingerie slammed themselves into his imagination.

"What? No! Don't touch me!" Ocelot wailed.

"Give us some milk, love!" Liquid shouted.

Ocelot waited for his body to be defiled, but nothing happened.

"Just kidding," Liquid said. "We're going to be excellent roommates."