"Who are the 'Patriots'?" Richard looked away towards another direction at my query. "What are you talking about?" "Don't B.S. me." He turned towards me. His gaze was icy. "Nothing you need to know about. By the way, not that I need to remind you, but don't mention to Snake things that don't concern him." "And if I do...?" Richard's stony silence answered my uncompleted question. I was too far into this business, and suddenly seemed to sense danger everywhere. "What do you intend to do with me once this mission is over?" "Nothing." "Don't expect me to believe you." Richard allowed himself a brief, oddly sad smile. "I suppose I can't." In the meantime, Snake was inching towards the launch code entry interface. At that point, he received a call from Master Miller. "Snake, we need to talk about Naomi Hunter." "The Colonel's looking into that." "Turn the monitoring off." "All right, it's off. Mission control is out of the loop. You want to tell me what this is about?"
Snake believed that he had switched us off, but I could still hear everything. Radio malfunction? I guessed not. Someone had made sure that nothing could get past mission control, ever. I had a more than good idea who that someone was. But Master Miller obviously did not. "Sorry about that. I didn't want Campbell to overhear." "What is this about?" Snake repeated. "I have a contact at the Pentagon. He told me that a new -- assassination tool had been recently developed under DIA guidance." I looked over at Richard, but he pretended not to notice. "Assassination tool?" Snake was asking. "Snake, have you ever heard the term FOXDIE?" I tensed. There was that word again. First Richard, then Campbell, now Miller. "It seems to be a virus that can target specific individuals. I don't know the details." Miller continued. Richard remained expressionless next to me. "So? What are you getting at?" Snake raised his voice slightly, sounding annoyed by Miller's roundabout methods. "They share common features."
"What shares common features?" "The deaths. The ArmsTech president and the DARPA chief -- or I guess I should say Decoy Octopus. They both died of what looked like a heart attack, right?" "Yeah?" "Well, it seems that a death by FOXDIE virus looks like a case of heart attack." After a moment, Snake spoke up. "Are you saying that Naomi was the one who set this up?" "Snake, think. Did Naomi give you any kind of a shot?" "The nanomachines..." Snake murmured. Snake had in fact been injected with nano- machines and anti-hypothermia compound before the start of the mission. Was Miller suggesting that there was a killing virus in the mix as well? "One thing's for certain: she's in the best position to perform this kind of sabotage. But we still don't know her motive or objective..." "What about the Colonel...?" Snake asked after a lengthy silence, his tone brooding and full of doubts. "I don't know. And I don't think he's interro- gated her yet either." "All right. I'll ask him."
Once he was off the radio with Miller, Snake called up Campbell. "Colonel, any new developments with Naomi?" "I've -- just had her taken into custody." "What?" Snake said incredulously. "She was sending a coded transmission to an Alaskan location. I don't want to believe it but -- she's definitely one of the terrorists." Campbell sounded anguished. "Are you sure?" "There's very little doubt. She's being interrogated right now." "What kind of interrogation?" "I don't want to resort to force, but we don't even have thiopentothal on hand..." "Let me know if you learn anything." Unaware of the machinations behind this latest development, Snake ended the commu- nication. I longed to tell him the truth, but knew that Richard and his men would never allow that to happen. Despite his growing doubts, Snake continued to penetrate deeper into the hangar. He had almost reached the code interface when a call suddenly came in. "Snake, can you hear me? It's Naomi..." "Naomi!?" Snake exclaimed in surprise.
"What are you -- !" Richard tensed and leaned forward. "I managed to get to another transmitter. The Colonel and the others haven't noticed yet." Naomi whispered rapidly. "Naomi, is it true? What the Colonel says?" "...yes. But not everything I told you is a lie. Some of it was the truth." Her voice was sorrowful. "Who are you really?" "I don't know. I don't know what my parents looked like even, or what they were called. I bought the name I use, the whole identity, with hard cash. Remember I told you why I was so fixated on genes? That was the truth." "Because you wanted to know who you were. That's what you said." "Yes... I don't know what I am. My ethnic background, age..." "Naomi -- " There was a pause before Naomi started speaking again in a rush.
"I was picked up in Northern Rhodesia, in the '80s. I was an orphan." "Rhodesia? During all the guerilla warfare?" "Zimbabwe used to be a British colony, you know. There was a sizable Indian population there then. Maybe that's where I get the color of my skin, but I'm not even sure of that." "Naomi, why dwell on the past? If you can understand who you are now, isn't that all that really matters?" "Understand what I am myself? No one could ever understand me, least of all myself." Naomi's voice was suddenly defiant. "I was always searching for myself, alone. Until I met my brother and Him." "Your brother?" Snake asked. "Yes. Frank Yeager."
"What did you say?" Snake was taken aback. "He was a child soldier too. He found me almost dead of starvation on the bank of the Zambezi and fed me from his own small ration of food." Child soldiers. It is not rare for children to participate in war as combatants in many of the most conflict-ravaged regions of the world. This is especially true for those developing nations where minors account for the majority of the entire population. A harsh regimen can and does turn innocent children into the most brutal of soldiers. In many cases, various drugs are used to numb the natural fear response. The result is an obedient killing machine whose "bravery" marks them out for posting to the frontlines of the fiercest battles and to scouting duties in the minefields.