His chest felt like it was being crushed. Blinking, breathing, every act of simply staying alive brought an avalanche of pain cascading upon him. He felt like his thoughts and awareness, and everything that made up his consciousness, were completely shut off from himself. He had only made it a single step forward, and from there, he could no longer move.
Snake’s very steps told the story. So, this is how it is. My end has come.
Old age has brought an end to my tired life.
Is this as far as I go? Is this really it?
Snake struggled to retain his consciousness. He fought against the crumbling world with everything he had. At the edges of his awareness, the other soldiers shared in the agony. They were all around him, some convulsing on the ground, others frothing at the mouth, a few shitting themselves uncontrollably, and on and on.
Snake looked for Meryl’s squad. Ed, Jonathan, and Meryl had collapsed with their hands clutched at their heads. Only Akiba seemed unaffected, helplessly watching his comrades suffer.
Snake gritted his teeth. “It’s not over. I can’t fall here. Not yet,” he told himself. “I cannot leave my fate, my curse, to Meryl and Sunny’s generation. After I finish what I must, then I will happily die. But not now. I still must fight.”
With a voiceless roar, he lifted his Operator and stumbled into the courtyard. He pushed his way through the throngs of writhing and flailing soldiers. He fought against waves of overwhelming nausea. With saliva streaming from his mouth, he closed in on Liquid.
Suddenly, Liquid pointed straight at him.
Snake froze as if pierced straight through.
Liquid gazed down upon the courtyard in chaos and boomed, “Brother! It’s been too long!”
Liquid spread his arms in a theatrical motion. “Rejoice! We’re not copies of our father after all!”
Snake could no longer focus his vision, and now Liquid appeared as two blurry forms. Snake’s heart pounded, the palpitations threatening to burst his hardened arteries. With each beat, pain shot through his heart and his body.
Liquid pointed his right arm at the sun. “We are freed from the shackles of destiny!” He spoke as if he were pronouncing his victory over Big Boss, fate, and the world. “Snake! Brother! We are free!”
Something within Snake had been defeated. His legs refused to hold up his body. His knees hit the ground. His body submitted to the pain.
Liquid was still shouting. “I’ve surpassed my own creator!”
Snake collapsed to the earth. Even then he tried to lift his Operator and aim at Liquid, but he could no longer distinguish which blurry shape represented the man.
Then a pair of feminine legs walked into his vision.
The legs moved in steady footsteps—their owner apparently not afflicted by the chaos that struck Snake and the PMC soldiers. One step at a time, the legs approached Snake.
The world was silent, save for his own breathing. All seemed distant, dreamlike.
A familiar voice cut through the haze.
“Snake,” the voice said.
Snake realized that he knew her. He had killed her brother, his old comrade. Snake had first crippled him in Zanzibar Land and stood by and watched him die on Shadow Moses. He was given the code name “Fox,” FOXHOUND’s highest honor. He was Big Boss’s ally. Gray Fox.
Fox’s sister took a syringe out of her coat pocket and slowly injected it into her neck.
She was Naomi Hunter, the creator of FOXDIE.
Snake muttered, “Naomi,” but he couldn’t tell if he had actually been able to voice the word or not. His consciousness was slowly fading.
Naomi discarded the empty syringe and turned her back.
“Snake, if you don’t want to be a prisoner of your fate…then go. Fulfill your destiny.”
Snake reached out for her, but pain shot through the straining muscles in his arm and chest, and he collapsed again. By the time he could look up, she was gone.
On the roof of the building, Liquid was boarding a transport helicopter, with Naomi already seated inside. Liquid removed his sunglasses and looked down at Snake with naked eyes. His face might have belonged to Revolver Ocelot, but the resentment festering within those eyes was all Liquid.
Liquid flashed a smile and got in the aircraft.
Snake found his life flashing before his eyes. “It’s not just a saying,” he told me later. “It really does happen.”
In one instant he saw with complete clarity the events of his life. He began to slip beyond the plane of consciousness.
The Iraqi heat when he was a Green Beret disabling Scud missiles in the Gulf War. His infiltration of Outer Heaven, his first mission with FOXHOUND. When he’d grown tired of war and moved to Canada and was forced back into service to respond to the disturbance in Zanzibar Land. Shadow Moses, where he first met his brother Liquid. The tanker in the Hudson Bay he boarded on behalf of his anti-Metal Gear NGO. When he snuck aboard the Big Shell facility, home to the terrorist organization, Dead Cell, led by his second brother, Solidus.
Somewhere inside Snake, a voice said, Hasn’t this been enough for one life?
You’ve fulfilled your duty.
You’ve fought more than enough battles.
No one will fault you if you perish here.
It’s time for you to fade into the shadows of history, Solid Snake.
But Snake wouldn’t be able to forgive himself.
If he died now, he’d die a captive of his own fate.
Snake let out a deep roar from the bottom of his gut. He raised his Operator to the sky and blindly fired until no bullets remained.
“I’ll show you!” he shouted. “I’ll make it to the source of my destiny!”
As the last vestiges of consciousness slipped away from Snake, the helicopter disappeared beyond the city.