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[personal profile] harpokrates
In my attempts to improve at writing, im gonna start writing 'post-mortems', in which i discuss my writing process, what i like about the story, and what i don't like.

This is for 'It's just like one of my 90's romcoms' a metal gear fic i published on ao3, the mgs-slash com on lj, and ff.net

I started 90's romcom sometime in may or april of 2013, and finished in august of 2014. I'm not actually sure what spawned it. Uh, most of the liquid/otacon fics on the internet are rapey or abusive, and the two that aren't are goofy aus. Im still not sure why i like this pairing, but that isnt important.

Onwards with the story.


I copied this directly from ao3 because im too lazy to find the actual file. The story will be normal, and my commentary will be bolded.

“Major.” right off the bat i wasn't sure what Liquid's rank was, and i had him as a colonel for a while before looking up a guide to ranks and how many years of service are required for them. Im still not sure how the british military system works, so i didn't bother trying. I also stuck them in the airforce, i think, but i deleted those notes a while ago

There was something immensely satisfactory about seeing one's elders pulling a salute every time he crossed them in the halls. here it seems like it would be confusing about to whom he is speaking

Liquid returned the salute. He let his hand twist up a little further than regulation, a habit ingrained from his days with the SAS, but also a little to infuriate the lower ranks. They didn't dare to correct him; the last person who had tried that was inducted into the unit and stationed in the Pentagon as the official FOXHOUND liaison, a position which consisted primarily of coffee runs and endless requisition forms.

“At ease.” He let his accent slip, too. Patriotism still ran high among the enlisted, and it rankled them to no end that a limey from across the pond could push them around. this slang seems a little forced

He continued down the corridor, leaving the grunts to do whatever grunts did when they weren't being yelled at. Truth be told, there wasn't much else to do besides pace and hover over the shoulders of his subordinates. Oh, there was endless training and paperwork, but even throwing some starry-eyed intern into the dirt lost it's appeal after the two-hundredth time.

The sharp clack of very non-regulation heels on linoleum pulled him from his thoughts.

“Wolf.”

The sniper grinned sharply, and fell into pace with him. Liquid knew that his unit all felt the effects of confinement. Sniper Wolf was far better at hiding it than the rest of them, but even she had taken to wandering the base.

“I could kill a man for some action.” She sighed, pushing a hand through her hair.

Liquid scoffed. “We're in enough trouble as it is. Kindly refrain from lengthening our probation.” i knew that i wanted them to be in some sort of trouble a while back, when i was first writing this, it went through several iterations, like the knowledge of what liquid did in the middle east coming to life, and honestly at one point i was planning on just not explaining it. Im not 100% happy with how it turned out, but it isnt bad.

“Bah, politics.”

“You aren't the one standing trial in front of a military tribunal.”

“Maybe I ought to go in your place,” she smirked. “I could wear one of mother's dresses, speak Kurdish?” the implication here is that sniper wolf is islamic, or at least comes from an islamic family, and retains some of those habits

“Wolf, we need them to like us. These are Americans, they're petty.” my disdain for the government is a bit strong here

She hummed, and they fell into silence. The hallways were mostly uninhabited during the evenings. The troops were in the barracks or at the mess hall, and the scientists didn't venture up from the labs out of some old high school instinct regarding muscle-types and lockers. Sometimes he ran across the other FOXHOUND members, but that was mostly limited to Wolf or Octopus. i recall from something(maybe one of the comics) that octopus was liquid's second in command Ocelot spent his time hovering over the shoulders of the researchers or pissing off the soldiers in the firing ranges. Raven loomed on the roof of the communications tower, and Mantis was having an isolation fit, and lurked in his room.

It was insurmountably stupid to keep them pinned up in the middle of Bumfuck Island, Nowhere. Even if guarding the R&D here was as vital as the higher-ups implied, they certainly didn't need an elite task force confined on-base 24/7. Under review or not, FOXHOUND would be better utilized elsewhere.

“Liquid-” Wolf said sharply.

He glanced up, and then a little researcher ran face first into his chest. Liquid didn't move; he was six foot and nearly two hundred pounds, it took more force than an anemic nerd could produce to push him over, but the researcher fell backwards in a tangle of elbows and styrofoam cups. this is really cliche, but i think it works because the entire thing is cliche

Liquid frowned, and brushed at the burning coffee seeping through his shirt.

“Owww...” the researcher rubbed the back of his head. He got up slowly, sighing at the empty coffee cups. “Dr. Tost is gonna kill me.” He glanced up. 'Tost' is the last name of one of my lab partners in bio 115, who was a dude, but Dr. Tost in this story is a lady, who is in her fifties, i think. she shows up in some of my other(unpublished as of now) stuff

In a typical fear situation, the parasympathetic nervous system activates the 'fight-or-fight' response. This triggers a series of reactions down the spine: blood flow increases, pupils dilate, the stomach and intestines stop digesting food, and the mouth halts the production of saliva. The energy spent during digestion was redirected to the extremities. All of these reactions serve to prime the body for immediate and rapid motion, whether it be punching or sprinting. i feel like we were learning about this in bio at the time i wrote it, which is why its here

The man took one look at them, and froze like a deer in headlights.

“I, uh, uh,” he stammered. “Sorry, uh, sir?” His hand twitched up to his glasses and hung there, like he planned on a salute but then thought better of it. He glanced at Wolf, who seemed as unimpressed as ever, and blanched. “Uh, ma'am.”

Wolf raised an eyebrow at him.

“I n-need to go.” He jabbed his finger down the hall, narrowly missing Liquid's arm, and stumbled back towards the labs.

To his credit, he managed to keep from running until he was nearly ten feet away.

“Well, that was obnoxious.” Liquid scowled at his shirt. The coffee had cooled to mildly scalding now, and was rapidly headed towards cold and clammy. i really wanted to avoid liquid having 'oh hes so sexxi and cute' thoughts about otacon b/c i find that obnoxious, which is why i think i ended up going in the oppsite direction and spend a fair amt of time talking about how ugly hal is

“I think you scared him, boss. Poor thing will be twitching for weeks.”

“Hmm.” He didn't even like good coffee, much less the sludge they had on base. He was still British at heart, and drank tea on principle. “I smell like a university kid.”

“I'd lend you a shirt, but I don't think it'd fit.”

“Ha ha, Wolf, you never run out of clever things to say.” Liquid said dryly. He stopped poking at the stain. It was a good thing that their uniforms were olive drab, otherwise he would have a large, obvious coffee spot all over his shirt tomorrow morning. i decided that the uniform for FOXHOUND was olive drab shirts, whatever pants it is they wear, and the greatcoat, but honestly no one in FOXHOUND seems to adhere to a dresscode so it doesn't really matter. Liquid keeps his shirt on throughout, tho

“You could just take off your shirt?” Wolf started pacing down the hall. Liquid followed, keeping step with her out of habit.

“I'm in enough trouble as it is, I don't need some grunt getting the wrong idea and filing sexual harassment charges.”

He pulled off his greatcoat as he walked; there was no reason to let the coffee dribble onto that, too.

Wolf laughed. “We both know you'll end up sauntering around the base half-naked anyways.”

“I have had reasonable justification every time that has happened.” Liquid sniffed.

“Sure, boss.”



-----



The next morning was cold and disgusting, but it least it was better than warm and disgusting. Liquid rubbed sleep out of his eyes and crawled out of bed. Officer housing was only slightly better than what the grunts had, but he at least had a room to himself, even if it was slightly smaller than a college dorm and he still had to share communal showers.

His living quarters currently consisted of a stiff mattress balanced precariously on a bed frame, a small wardrobe, and a little desk and chair tucked into a corner.

He pulled on a new shirt, which looked like of all of his other shirts except for the one that now had a large bleach stain in the middle. Liquid was never very good at laundry. Then went on the bulky trousers, which he neatly tucked his shirttail into, and the belt, which was more of a safety hazard than not. It took no thought to realize that a belt gave an enemy combatant a good place to grab and throw, and its inclusion was clearly made by someone with more a mind for aesthetics than practicality.

The base was still quiet, a combination of it being o' five-thirty and severely undermanned. Liquid pulled on his greatcoat as he walked. military time is weird and i wasnt sure if i should go with 'o five thirty or 0530

There wasn't much for a high-ranking commander of a niche special forces unit to do in the middle of an island in the middle of the Arctic circle. Sure, he could endlessly micromanage about patrol routes, but there was still a pile of paperwork sitting at his desk and a nine month probation and another psych evaluation waiting for him if he tried to start anything.

He got to the commander's room, which he refused to call an office on principle that offices were utilitarian. It was a nice little room, a touch gaudy and ostentatious, but it accomplished the task it was meant to accomplish. Even if it was a gross waste of space. No office needed couches, much less a military one. idk if this is good characterization. canon liquid seems pretty vain, but dumb romcom au liquid is not

It had a desk and a chair and a massive pile of paper work lurking in his inbox, looking like it remained upright only through sheer spite towards gravity. He slumped into the chair and slammed his head on the desk.

The pile of papers fluttered to the ground.

Liquid fished the nearest one off of the ground. It was page three of fourteen of a report about some inconsequential chain of command drama that would never matter to nor effect FOXHOUND in any way.

He rolled his eyes, and tracked down the other thirteen pages. Speed reading came easily with a profoundly gifted IQ level, and he managed to skim over the report in less than five minutes. Nothing but endless bickering about who got to yell at whom about irrelevant nonsense. im not sure what level 'profoundly gifted' starts at, but 180 is definitely in it

Liquid rolled his eyes and groped around the desk drawer for a stapler. There was no sense in letting the papers get lost, even if it was the saddest excuse of a dick-measuring contest he had ever witnessed. His hand drifted past the pens, the pencils, and the staple remover before he managed to find it.

He aligned the papers neatly, and positioned the stapler at a forty-five degree angle to the top corner. Never let it be said that Liquid Snake was anything less than thorough. He pressed the stapler to a click.

The paper remained unstapled. Worse, it had developed an irritating little dent of failure in the corner where it was supposed to be meticulously stapled.

Liquid heaved a sigh so mighty Homer could write an epic about it and yanked the desk drawer open. After a few seconds of unfruitful searching, he slid the drawer shut and stood up.

As much as he liked not having to dodge grunts and twitchy scientists, being in such an underpopulated base had its draw backs. For one, there were no secretaries from whom to steal office supplies. Even FOXHOUND had secretaries, although those were mostly recruit hopefuls with sprained ankles who were on desk duty for two weeks and had nothing better to do. at some point i got a sprained ankle and went to the hospital on base and the doctor complained about getting a sprained ankle about two days into deployment and how he was stuck in a chair for three weeks

Liquid wandered down the hall. Supplies were kept in the basement labs, along with all of the other necessary but not immediate things, like medical supplies and Nikita ammo. Typically, he'd send someone else to run his errands; he was a high ranking commander, he had more important things to do rather than find office supplies, but he was bored and a paper abyss waited for him back at his desk. Even a staple fetch-quest was more appealing than that.

He tapped the call button, and the elevator arrived with a ping. At times, he wasn't entirely sure whether or not it was safe to stick both management rooms and living quarters in the same building as nuclear war heads, but managed to console himself that he was already sterile and would probably die before leukemia set in anyways. its never clear in the games where everyone lives, so i just made a wild guess

Liquid sighed and stepped into the elevator and pressed for the second basement. The elevator shuddered to a halt, and the doors slid open. The flooring down here was loose, and rattled too much when he walked. Even the heel-toe trick he had learned back in basic didn't work. haha game ref

The door on the left had some messy, illegible graffiti scrawled across it. Liquid held his hair back and stood in front of the door. It opened with a blast of air and he walked down the hall. The labs were supposed to be empty this early, the researchers didn't officially start working until nine, but it wasn't unusual for one of them to start early on some program or other. im still not sure what 'posion gas' was implied to be used in-game, b/c no actual gas kills that fast, and like sarin would have affected otacon after snake ran in. i made the guess to use CO in my other fic but yeah

So it wasn't a major surprise that one of the terminals was active.

There was a man on the computer in the northwest most corner of the room, typing rapidly. He was skinny and pale, with dark bruises from too little sleep smudged under his eyes, and bristly stubble on his chin. He wore thick glasses and a thin hoodie. There were two monitors in front of him, both of which he was half paying attention to, one with some brightly colored cartoon playing, and the other with code scrolling across the screen. as a note, this entire story began b/c i thought otacon would be a big enough nerd to try and give someone a bento like in the animes

It was that clumsy nerd who splashed coffee all over Liquid's shirt.

Liquid rummaged in the nearest desk for staples. The programmer didn't notice, but those science types were always absentminded. Also, he was wearing headphones.

His hand closed around a nearly full box of staples, and he let himself smirk in victory.

He turned to leave, but snakes were just as prone to curiosity as cats, and he glanced over at the terminal. Liquid had no background in programming, but the code flying across the screen didn't look like it belonged in a walking TMD. He sidled forwards, peering over the scientist's head. No, that didn't look right at all.

“What are you working on?”

The man jumped, and if Liquid had been a little closer and a little shorter, he would have smashed his head against Liquid's jaw. Liquid glanced at the man's name tag, pinned loosely to his jacket: Dr. Hal Emmerich, PhD. The project head, then. ArmsTech contractor, MIT, impressive resume.

“I, uh, the melee program, uh, sir?” He glanced up at Liquid. “It, uh, was buggy in the VR, so I'm writing a patch. Uh, the program itself can't be changed, its too specialized, so a patch is the only solution. Sir.” he babbled.

“A melee program?” Liquid squinted at the computer screen. The programmer unsubtly switched off the other monitor playing the cartoon. “Why would a TMD need one of those?”

“W-well,” he stammered, “REX isn't any good at close combat, it only has the machine gun and the energy cutter, which is fine against troops but useless against anything with decent plating.”

Liquid leaned against the desk, and Emmerich flinched away. “You're predicting knock-offs?”

The programmer blinked. “Uh, yeah. How did you know that?”

“Lucky guess. A tank isn't mobile enough to be a match for something like, ah, REX, did you call it? And it could shoot down aircraft, you said soldiers weren't a problem, so that leaves a vehicle similar to the TMD as its only threat.”

“Yeah, that's it.” Emmerich fought a yawn. “I mean, REX isn't supposed to go anywhere just by itself, but its better to be safe than sorry, y'know.” oh look random tech rambling in an attempt to flesh out the universe

“And I imagine this little project of yours is unsanctioned?” Liquid knew he was very good at being intimidating. One didn't achieve command of a high tech special forces unit while looking like they spent the weekends knitting and gardening. The programmer quailed.

“Huh? No, we got permission.” he mumbled.

“Why the early start then? I thought you were called in much later than this?”

“Early?” Emmerich frowned. “I thought, hm, what time is it?”

“Five,” Liquid glanced at his watch, “forty-eight.”

He blanched, and leaned back in his chair, hands over his face.

Liquid ignored him. “What does this mean?” He jabbed at the screen.

“Huh,” Emmerich looked at the text, pushing his glasses higher up on his nose. “Oh, that's just a data packet, the source code pulls that and processes an exchange between REX and the operator. The ER model summarizes the database and provides the commonality relationship...”

The programmer descended into technobabble.

“...so the relay packet can communicate with the drivers,” he paused for a second, and glanced up at Liquid. “Oh, uh, I was rambling, sorry, uh, sir. Its a bad habit I have, see, and-” he ran a hand through his messy hair.

“So,” said Liquid, cutting the other man off mid-sentence, “this makes the TMD process commands more quickly?”

“Not necessarily, but we don't-,” Emmerich looked up at him, confusion plastered across his face. “Wait, you followed that?” this scene goes nowhere i think. im not really sure why i gave liquid super code understanding prowess, but i dont think its that bad

Liquid narrowed his eyes at the man. He knew he looked like an oversized surfer, what with the dark tan and bleached hair, and military intelligence was one of this favorite oxymorons, but honestly. Only the very high ranks went to the idiots, and Liquid was just a Major.

“Uh, sorry, I didn't mean it like that.” Emmerich ducked his head sheepishly. He blushed. “It's just that y'know, military guys don't usually, uh, care about this kind of stuff.” He had an odd look on his face, kind of like Wolf had when she found someone to listen to her ramble about her dogs.

Liquid's watch beeped loudly in the silence. He pushed up his sleeve and glanced at it. 'O six-hundred already.

He nodded at Emmerich, and turned around, his coat flaring dramatically. He was at the doorway when Emmerich said something.

“W-wait!”

Liquid glanced back at the man.

“Ah, what's your name?”

“Liquid Snake.” He said without preamble, and left.


---


“That researcher who threw his coffee at you is up here again.” Wolf gave the barest gesture over her shoulder.

“Hmm, I thought they avoided coming out of the basements?” Liquid said in between bites. The canteen on Shadow Moses was just as bad as canteens anywhere else, but the food was plentiful and he was hungry.

“Yes, and he's brought a friend along this time.” Wolf picked the pork out of her food and piled it on Liquid's plate.

Indeed, there was another researcher with him today, some chubby Indian woman. They were hovering around each other, jumping every time a soldier got within a five foot radius.

“Emotional support, perhaps? They tend to get flinchy in public settings.” Liquid was fully aware that he was discussing Emmerich and his companion like they were a distinct species (although in his defense he had been given no information to the contrary), and he was being a bit rude.

He hadn't told Wolf about his discussion with Emmerich last Monday morning. While she was certainly more trustworthy than say, Ocelot, and they did have a tentative friendship based mostly on their mutual dislike of the American government, he didn't hold her above finding out how to use that information, trivial as it was, against him.

So, he stayed quiet, and let the researcher gawk. No doubt he was still surprised that Liquid had managed to follow his rambling. Even the meek, shy, unassuming types got arrogant and haughty around the uneducated. Besides, it didn't matter to him either way. He had more important things to worry about. Like paperwork. And military tribunals.

One of the genome grunts sauntered by, and elbowed Emmerich in the ribs. He gasped and grabbed his side. The other researcher swatted at the solider. He laughed cruelly, and ducked out of range. Emmerich puffed up, and pointed at the guard. His voice was lost in the roar of the cafeteria, but it was easy to tell that he was as much of a stuttering wreck as ever. this orignial scene had the solider groping dr. sanvii, but i thought that was bad, b/c using female character to add conflict to a romance b/t two dudes and all that, and i wasn't about to change it to hal getting groped, b/c thats just dumb. This is the us military in 2005, after all

Liquid stood up. He was good at looming. Very good, in fact. Liquid Snake rated as one of the foremost loomers in the US military, and made top one-hundred across the globe.

The crowd of soldiers parted before him like the Red Sea before Moses, which was very appropriate, considering their location.

Emmerich was still red-faced and sputtering, and the woman was scowling and fidgeting like she wanted to punch the soldier when Liquid came up and quietly dropped his hand onto the man's shoulder.

“Private,” he said, and the man went very still, “would you care to explain what you just did?”

“Uh, sir, I-,” he saluted. His face was pale, and he was sweating.

The cafeteria was quiet, and the few remaining soldiers were suddenly very engrossed in their meals. Wolf lounged in her seat, looking like a sated cat. Emmerich had managed to pull himself back to his full height, and looked slightly ill.

“Private, I asked you a question.” Liquid let go of the man's shoulder. He stumbled, and saluted tightly.

“S-sir, I, i-it was just a joke.”

“Doctor, ah,” Liquid glanced at the woman's ID badge, “Kaur? I believe you witnessed this?”

“If it was a joke, it wasn't a funny one.” She said through clenched teeth. “I oughta' smack you.”

“Private, I'm assigning you to janitorial work for thirty days, in addition to your current duties. Report to the base manager tonight, and explain your new situation to him. Dismissed.” The man fled, and Liquid turned. His food was only barely palatable warm, and it was certainly cold now.

“Thank you.” Kaur smiled at him.

“Just doing my job.” Liquid called over his shoulder.

Kaur nudged Emmerich in the ribs.

“Oh, uh, thanks.” He said lamely, rubbing his head.

Kaur tittered and whispered into his ear. Emmerich turned red, and batted his hands at her.idk, i guess i meant kaur to know about his crush, but i never got around to really adressing it

“That's him?”

Liquid caught the tail end of their conversation as they scurried back down to the basement. He dropped into his seat. His food was cold. Wolf gave him a sly look.

“What?” He snapped.

“Feeling charitable today, boss?”

He didn't respond; he was above that.

“Just doing what I'm supposed to, Wolf.” Then again, maybe he wasn't.

“Hmm,” she said. Liquid speared a lukewarm chunk of pasta with his fork, and chewed vigorously, avoiding eye contact with her.

“I'm just wondering, boss,” she continued after a moment of quiet, “how you managed to notice that.”

“I-”

Wolf cut him off. “Staring is rude, Liquid Snake. Ta.” She gracefully stood up and glided away, and left him sitting there, mouth hanging open like an idiot.



---



The TMD was a glorious giant fucking robot.

To be perfectly honest, it looked stupid, and remarkably unstable. The radome was still uncovered, and placed in an area very easy to attack. A bipedal machine at its core was much more unstable than something with treads, or a quadraped. It resembled that robot from the alien movie his roommates in basic had dragged him to see back in '86. The cockpit didn't allow the pilot to observe the outside with opening the hatch. That laser was absolutely useless. rex is pretty dumb tbh

“This is a marvel.” said Liquid.

Baker side-eyed him and continued speaking with the design engineer. Emmerich wasn't up here. Instead, some older, thin, balding man with a limp was dragging the DARPA chief and the president of ArmsTech around the TMD. He didn't seem to have much enthusiasm for the project, not like Emmerich did. But he didn't have a stutter and the inability to look people in the eye. i figure that rex had bunches of sub divisions, b/c there is no way a 25 year old was put in charge of a huge contract project like rex. Hal is in charge of like programming or something

Not that Liquid noticed.

“Boss,” Wolf hissed, “pay attention.”

He glared back at her. “To what, Wolf? The tour?”

If there was one thing Liquid hated more than politics (and perhaps the SIS), it was showy gestures designed to tell the higher-ups simultaneously that everything was going as scheduled, and that they needed more money. Showing off REX to DARPA was big and impressive, but the data generated in the virtual reality tests was far more useful in determining the future of the project. But that was the way science was, he supposed, the bigger and flashier headlines the thing made, the better funding it would receive. After all, 'WALKING TANK' made better press than 'Test Data Suggests a Mobile TMD is Efficient'. this is one of my legit criticism about actual scientific reporting

“Ah, Major?” Baker looked at him.

“Sir?”

“I trust there haven't been any problems with security?” The man may have been bloated and fish-eyed, but he was shrewd. He was clearly quite aware of FOXHOUND's little botch-up in Russia, and clearly willing to use that knowledge.

“That would be correct, sir.” Liquid gritted his teeth, kept his voice level, and ignored the quick look Wolf gave him.

“Hmph.” Baker directed his attention back to the engineer, who was wringing his hands as he glanced nervously between the FOXHOUND commander and the ArmsTech president.

Raven was looming over by REX, looking as statuesque as the machine itself. The ravens perched on the struts of the roof cawed depressingly, the noise lost in the clatter and chaos of the hangar. He was still brooding about the peptide injections. The only one who had been able to skip out on them this time was Mantis, who was too underweight for even the most mundane of chemicals. Even a small amino cluster would pile up on a blood vessel, and then FOXHOUND would need a new psychic. uh, im not sure about the science here

The engineer lead them over to REX's skull. The cockpit and most of the piloting systems were still unassembled. Liquid knew that the AI for the machine was unfinished. The project was outsourced to some little college lab in England who had a hard time making dates.subtle implications about Emma working on the project, shes a kid at this point in canon, but i figure she might be interning or something

section deleted b/c no comments

---


He was on page twelve of twenty-three when his eyes started crossing from seeing the terms 'strategic' and 'terror' so many times.

Liquid dropped the report back on his desk, and leaned back in his chair. At least the big, ostentatious pseudo-loveseat was comfortable to sit it. It even had wheels, but he wasn't bored enough to start scooting across the room like a child. It would take at least three more reports on whatever the president thought about oil prices before he would be willing to sink to that level.

He glanced at his watch. It was late, but not late enough to turn in and call it a night.

His mind drifted back to REX. He was a pilot at heart, raised at the controls of a decommissioned Hind rusting in the RAF hanger. It was tempting to think about piloting that monster, but jumping positions while under review was unwise. Hell, he wasn't even sure if his psych eval. still checked out.

He stood up, kicking the chair back under the desk. Pacing, pacing was easy to do. It was mindless, didn't require any signing or thinking. He let his feet drag him out of the office and down the empty corridor.

The labs on the first floor basement were deserted and dark. Liquid could see the blinking green dot of light as the security cameras panned back and forth across the room. He gave himself a second to remember that the area was lit with infra-red, and that the cameras could 'see' at that wavelength, even if the typical person couldn’t. He had met all types back in his hunt for members of the new FOXHOUND, including some woman who could see at all wavelengths of light. She didn't make his unit due to age and language barriers. im not sure why this is here

Liquid stood in front of the door to the stairs, his right hand loosely holding his level ten keycard. He could go down. It was just four flights, short enough that it would be lazy to take the elevator, but long enough that it took a bit of will to convince himself to put forth the effort. His paperwork could wait. It was just meeting minutes and patrol reports.

He sighed, and stepped forwards. The door slid open with a quiet hiss, displaced air and metal against felt buffers. The stairwells at Shadow Moses were damp and dank. The cold seeped in through the rock and spread through the air into one's lungs, so that breathing took as much concentration as firing a gun.

His footsteps echoed down the stairs. Four flights went by without a thought, and he flashed his card in front of the door. The labs were mostly empty. He walked down the hallway as quietly as he could, and glanced into the window in the door. He squinted. Tilted his head. It still didn't make any sense.

“What are you doing?” He stepped through the door. Emmerich jumped.

He was huddled around a computer terminal, with some muted bright cartoon playing on a netbook, and surrounded by bags of... something.

“Uh,” Emmerich said.

“Are these jellybeans?” Liquid picked up a bag and shook it slightly.

“...yeah?” Emmerich pushed up his glasses and paused his cartoon.

“Why?”

“Um, y'see, Mingming, uh, Dr. Xu, is in Seattle, for his wedding. His fiancee proposed last month, and she handled everything, honestly, I think she ought to be in charge of our contracts.” He waved his hands around. “So, Dr. Xu always has a bag of candy with him, so its our wedding present. Sannvi was helping, but she has to do a report for the company tomorrow, so she turned in early.” dr. mingming xu was my chem 116 teacher. his tests were very hard

“You're telling me you gutted a man's computer and filled it with candy for a wedding present?” Liquid put the bag of jellybeans back on the ground.

“Well, when you put it like that it, uh, does sound pretty stupid.” Emmerich frowned, digging a flathead screwdriver in between the panels of a desk drawer.

He huffed. “Could you get this open?”

Liquid took the screwdriver, tossing it in the air and catching it by the handle. He crouched next to Emmerich, and wedged apart the particleboard. Honestly, this was very surreal. He wasn't quite sure if perhaps he had fallen asleep on top of his reports, and was now dreaming. Although, if he were dreaming, this was a sharp turn from the 'reliving combat' type of dream he normally had.

“Wow,” Emmerich dragged a tired hand over his face, “I'm not sure why I asked you to do that. I'm sorry.”

Liquid squinted at the other man. “How long has it been since you last slept?”

“Uh, Tuesday?”

It was Thursday.

“Why?”

“I don't know, I just couldn't sleep.” He yawned. “Too much stress maybe? Too much coffee? The beds here suck?”

Liquid snorted. “This is nothing compared to basic. I stuck a rock under my bunkmate's pillow when he beat my jump time, and he didn't notice for a week.”

“Jump time?” Emmerich tilted his head.

“How fast we could make a HALO jump without breaking our legs. It was never officially sanctioned, of course, but stick a room full of sixteen year old boys together and you're bound to get something stupid as a contest.” im pretty sure you can join the military in the uk at 16 witha parents permission

“Hmm, my roommate and I just argued about homework.”

Liquid watched silently as Emmerich upended a bag of jellybeans into the shell of a computer.

“This is repairable, right?”

“Huh, oh, yeah. This is a blown out computer, from back when we were just starting design trials and didn't know we needed the Crays. We blew up three Linuxes trying to get REX to walk without falling over. Mingming's actual computers are over in the locker.” He gestured vaguely to the north-west corner of the room.

“Really? I couldn't imagine it would take that much to make the TMD move. It's just a tank with legs, correct?” Liquid handed Emmerich another bag of candy.

“Well, not quite. REX actually controls more like a walking V/STOL aircraft than something with treads. One of the guys on the piloting design team worked on the Harrier, back in the seventies.”

Liquid nodded. “So the air intake was just replaced with, what, hydraulics?”

“Yeah, but that's why we've been having so much trouble with our melee program. REX is getting too heavy to be able to move quickly. We tried to redesign some of the launch platforms, and the plating on the legs, but its too late in the design phase.”

“Pity. You'll just have to work around that the next time someone wants a walking TMD.”

“Haha, yeah. If there's one good thing working with robotics, its that someone always wants a new one.” Emmerich shoved his glasses up. more science nonsense, thats how you know its a harpo storythis is like one of the few scenes im really happy with

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