Snake exited the 4th floor room, wearing his goggles. Flames swirled about the room. Though anyone who sought to break in would be burnt away, the same applied to Snake as well. He had to go through the quarantine platform again and kill the infected. He convinced himself to leave the room, telling himself this was the duty he had taken on.
On the stairs, he saw men climbing up with a ghostly expressions on their faces. When Snake looked through the goggles, the their pharynxes turned red. Snake shot them one by one and descended the staircase.
As Snake entered the 2nd floor hallway, he saw a shadow huddled in a corner. He didn't recall that when he was going up the platform. The shadow turned out to be three men, each dressed in the Diamond Dogs combat uniform. The members of the rescue squad. Noticing Snake, one of the men looked up.
As their eyes met, he addressed him, "Save me, Snake. I don't wanna die." But, his throat was red. Snake silently shook his head side to side, and raised his gun.
"Boss... are you...?" Tears flowed from his bloodshot eyes. "Pleaes, don't kill me! I don't wanna die here!"
Snake pulled the trigger. Those were his last words. The two men cowering on the ground and watching finally understood the situation. One of the two unsteadily raised his gun.
"Boss, Big Boss... We... I... long ago... I fought by your side, I waited for you for nine years..."
Snake recognized that face. He was a mercenary who had joined him on a mission in Costa Rica. He was an old friend who had survived Skullface's assault and persevered through the trying years of Big Boss's absence. However, a faint red tint showed in his throat.
"Is this how it ends, Boss...?"
His eyes asked Snake, is this what you woke up for? Or at the very least, Snake thought they did. Snake bit his lip with resolve and pulled the trigger. There could be no worse outcome for either of the two.
The remaining man's combat fatigues were drenched with blood, but Snake could not find any sign of infection in his throat. Snake lowered his gun and beckoned him with his hand. Not understanding what Snake was trying to say, the soldier shook his head and backed away. A miraculous survivor. Snake had to bring him out, if no one else.
"It's okay. You're not infected. We're leaving together." Snake reached out his hand.
Snake reached his hand out and persuaded him. There were no major wounds on him, but the soldier was unable to walk properly. The heaviest wounds must have been on his mind, not his body. Realizing that, Snake gave the man his shoulder and the two began to descend to the first floor together.
As he walked to the quarantine platform entrance, Snake asked the crew to unlock the gate through his codec. He had not come only to kill, but also the save. That fact might at least provide some courage, so he wanted to bring the man out as soon as possible.
Snake stopped. Looking at the man's face, he found it petrified with despair.
"Looks like... they got me too."
When Snake lowered his gaze to the man's throat, a red tint shattered his hope. Snake clicked his tongue. Impossible! There had been nothing there just moments ago. Did the infection progress this quickly? He prayed it was a mistake and looked again, but it was just as red as it was before. The man coughed, as if to confirm Snake's suspicions.
"They might have gotten in my wounds... My friends are waiting for me. Later."
His face was pale as he spoke, but within him dwelled a firm resolve. He stepped back, closed his eyes, and submitted his being to Snake.
"Forgive me," Snake whispered as he shot the man. The gunshot rang through the hallways for a moment before everything returned to silence.
He heard a gunshot from above. Big Boss was carrying out his mission. Leonard lazily turned his head to the stairs. Though a rational part of his mind told him, I mustn't go outside, his body began to ascend the stairway. His foot slipped on a pool of blood, but he reflexively grabbed a rail. Whose will is this? Did the vocal cord parasites move my arm, or did I do so under my own will to protect myself? Whose body does this belong to, and who is making it move?
I mustn't go outside. If I go outside, the parasites will disperse. But, the words want to leave. They want to fly away from the confines of the human body and scatter across the world. Mankind invented papyrus, the printing press, and methods to broadcast information, and now they were using computer networks to create a communication network over the entire world. However, these were phenomena that the virus of language used humans to induce. They forced us to invent, so we would spread our languages across the globe.
No, we have already internalized language. Adenine. Guanine. Cytosine. Thymine. DNA was written with just these four bases. These are the password, the code, the cipher that governs us. We have even attempted to read the genetic information that forms the basis of life. We are possessed by a disease to describe and decode anything we see.
The words want to go outside. They wish to discard the human body and escape to spread their memes and genes.
But I mustn't go outside. If man is to remain man, then I must not release the parasites.
Leonard willed his legs to stop. He wished he had brought a gun or knife, or any sort of weapon into the basement, but these regrets came too late. If he had done so, then he could kill his body. But now, the words wanted to go outside.
He heard footsteps from the stairs to the basement. He laid the dead soldier down to the side of the hall, and focused his ears. Slowly, occasionally missing a step, the footsteps ascended the stairs. A single set of footsteps. He was alone.
Feeling strangely uneasy, Snake removed his night vision goggles. As he did so, someone came up the stairs. Not an enemy, a friend. But, the tension of waiting was greater than from any other mission. Looking down the stairs, he saw something blacker than any darkness, and deeper than any hell. Someone was coming up. The face rising out of the darkness was gaunt and unshaven. His uncut hair came down to his shoulders. The curious eyes that had always darted around restlessly were now opened in a hollow gaze.
"Hey there, Boss. Big Boss... Vic Boss."
It was Leonard. "They," he pointed to his throat, "want to go outside."
I don't want to see it, Snake shook his head. But he had to. He put on the goggles and looked at Leonard's throat. There, he saw a cruel, undeniable truth. Leonard's throat had turned red.
"It's too bad, Boss... Looks like they've taken a liking to me too."
Leonard comprehended everything. They had been using the same codecs. He must have heard all their conversations through it. The parasites use their hosts to allow birds to eat them. Leonard knew what fate awaited him.
Snake took off the goggles and looked Leonard in the face.
"Boss, it's okay. I know... Kill me."
He spat out copious amounts of blood as he spoke. That's your job.
You were better with words than any of us. You mastered the hidden meanings of words, the seemingly meaningless relationships between words, and the art of drawing stories up from the sea of information more thoroughly than anyone else, and constructed the setting behind our missions. How could words kill you? How could something so absurd happen!?
Snake did not notice the faint shaking of his gun. Leonard coughed again, spitting out more blood.
"I couldn't have come this far... without you. Sophistry was my only talent, but I didn't have the courage to change reality... But with your help... I think... I made my little mark... on the world."
Which one of us is talking, Leonard thought with the remnants of his fading mind. Big Boss's face was distorted and barely visible. He eventually realized it was because he was crying. Why am I crying? Which one of us is crying? Do it, Boss. Kill me while I'm still myself. Then I can finally get some rest.
"You," Boss spoke. "You lied to me."
Leonard tilted his neck. Strange. Big Boss's voice is trembling. I must have finally lost my mind.
"You haven't written my story yet."
Sorry, Boss. Someone else will do it someday. It won't be me, but I'm sure someone will tell your story.
"You made a promise, now keep it."
Strange, Leonard thought again. Boss, I can't hang on any longer. I'm seeing hallucinations from the parasites eating me. Why is Boss crying? This isn't right. Big Boss wouldn't cry. Leonard shook his head. Snake pulled the trigger.
Bang. The sharp gunshot rang through the platform.
Leonard looked with bemusement at the hole in his chest. As he did so, blood spilled out and the color drained from his face. Bye, he mouthed to Snake, and closed his eyes.
Snake grabbed Leonard's arm and arrested his fall before pulling him back up. He held Leonard in his arms and lowered him into a sitting position. The platform was silent once more. Snake held a cigar in his mouth and lit it. This was not for himself to smoke, but for Leonard. However, Leonard was no longer breathing. The purplish smoke of the unused cigar just drifted away. Snake re-fastened his mask.
This concluded the extermination of all the infected.