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Thieves in the Temple

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There’s no water in Outer Heaven.

Oh, there’s bottled water, in a move so inconceivably economically absurd you don’t need to be Miller to recognize. Bottled water for drinking and cooking. The taps spit a salty sludge so heavy with rust it’s like blood, leaves haunting streaks on people’s skins and hair.

Ocelot had to stay up all night on the phone with Miller to get the base up and running in a way that makes at least some sense. They are drilling to the underground lake at the moment. There will be water soon.

But, right now. No water.

Sun in abundance, at least - but only outside the high, windowless walls of the fortress, in the stretch desert somebody thought was a great idea to put between the outer buildings and the command tower. And fill with huge poisonous scorpions. Quiet is not up on her ancient history but she’s fairly sure something like this would have been laughed out the portcullis even in medieval times.

The scorpions always sting her when she’s out trying to get some nutrients in. She eats them in return. Nobody is going to miss them, not even Venom.

Her old office on Mother Base was all windows, an old sentry up on the top of the main spire. Rainwater and dew dripped down the holes in the ceiling onto her desk. It was great. This one is small and stuffy and dark, and her old sun lamp is really not doing the trick. The silent Kalahari nights are so cold she feels brittle and fragile, and the sun so hot and direct it makes her parasites buzz, desperate for water, minerals, something to make her bloom like the dense rain of the Seychelles used to.

At night she slithers in Venom’s room, shivering against his big warm body. He pours that disgusting fake water that tastes like plastic over her head, lets it run down her neck, massages it into her skin.

She sucks the moisture out of his lips, ravenous and supercharged, devours every drop of fluid of his body with hers and when they make love she blooms, sickly and already heavy with rot. They melt together under the UV lamp on the nightstand, between these dark concrete walls that don’t belong to them and never will.

When Quiet sleeps, soaking in the cold sweat of Venom’s nightmares, she dreams of rain. She dreams of dissolving in the murky waters at the bottom of Lufwa Valley, dreams of sitting on the warm roof as the monsoon front builds around Mother Base on a clammy January morning, Hysteria throbbing from her office below.

But then she wakes, dry and cold. Venom is already up and taking his rust shower, Milli Vanilli is on the radio, and the eighties are over. The best time of her life, ironically, has passed. And now all they need to do is survive, and wait in these empty halls that already feel like catacombs.

She lies in the sand during the hotter hours of the day, the time even Venom had to call a curfew for after the dozenth heatstroke. The fortress is silent and still, buzzing lightly with electricity as the AC vents slowly grow in number. A vulture sometimes circles her before deciding she isn’t worth it. They may be already dead, but they’re a poisoned morsel. Toxic bait for snakes and nothing more.

Scorpions crawl over her as if she’s part of the environment.

She cracks them open like walnuts, lets their blood leak through her fingers, drip on her parched tongue.

Scorpions bleed blue. It tastes like dirt. The parasites shut up a little. She goes back to tracing her own blueprint of the fortress, loose parasites exploring leaking vents, cracked walls, pitfalls, blind spots in the creaking old security cameras. The places where R&D will fix things. The places where R&D will leave behind a small fault.

Parasites and phantoms are good at waiting.

Quiet is not.

They are going to watch this misshapen shrine to untreated trauma burn one day, and laugh. They’ll cheat death and fate and Zero and fucking Big Boss. They already did. They are going to again, a hundred times over.

She’ll make sure of it.