The morning of the day he meets Kazuhira Miller for the first time, Adam receives a dossier from Zero containing every intimate detail of the man's life that the world's own master of secrets himself has managed to scrounge up over the past several years. It's thick, weighty; something to kill the time on the flight to Salisbury.
'From Zero' is of course to say through a network of proxies so vast they could link hands across the Atlantic, but that's nothing more than he's used to. Zero values his privacy more than he does discretion; it's one of the many things on which they fundamentally disagree and it makes for generous morgue donations when Zero's overwhelming desire to remain a hermit causes somebody to put eyes on a document Adam didn't want anybody to see.
Frankly, though, he doesn't care who learns the blood type of John's latest cock warmer.
Adam flips through it. It's in Russian.
He closes it. Takes a soothing sip of bitter coffee and strokes his thumb over the engraving etched into the grip of his revolver. 'We are men,' he says, inaudibly, in Russian.
This was a courtesy on Zero's part because, you see, Russian is Adamska's native tongue. He's fluent in English, but Russian is faster, more nuanced. He flips through the files, from the mundane - Miller's college transcripts - to the obscure - an interview with the girl who took his virginity at an unsettlingly early age. He skims but does not read. He sees Zero's handiwork on every page - everything carefully curated to achieve the desired effect. The impression Zero wishes to impart of this man.
Instead, Adamska flips the pages over and begins to write. He poses himself a list of predictable questions and platitudes, and painstakingly crafts his responses. He memorizes these, complete with practiced intonation and expressions, in two languages and four dialects for each.
The files he discards piecemeal around the airport - trash bins, a stranger's luggage, the parking lot - upon his arrival. Zero loves controlling information and Adamska is ever so pleased to oblige him in that effort.
Really, John? Really?
Turns out, Kazuhira Miller is a tall, attractive, charming, charismatic, confident, sexually aggressive blond in his late 20s with a killer instinct and a penchant for playing all sides of a situation. Adamska isn't sure if he wants to drink, smoke, laugh, or bang his head against the wall. If it turns out the man likes motorcycles Adamska will be reduced to all four. You are predictable as the tides. Intrigued by the dash of the Asian exotic, far too red-blooded an American not to go for the blond(e).
Miller is cute, cutthroat, clever: he reads the change in Adamska's expression, the direction of his gaze, and the easing of his posture correctly within seconds of Adamska striding through the door, and leans back in his chair with his chin down for maximum effect. The most flattering view of his face and body. It's quick enough that it might be instinctual, rather than intentional; Adamska will have to explore that in future meetings. Yes, you're right. I do swing that way. And you're very handsome. This will, Miller no doubt knows from experience, give him the upper hand in their interaction. Adamska will want something Miller does not. A bargaining chip in his favour.
Yes, Adamska could play this angle. If he continues to acknowledge it for another heartbeat or two, he'll be forced to. He'll be standoffish and resistant and denying but eventually end up in Miller's bed where the two of them will consider it a business transaction and it will work its way to more than that from there.
But, frankly, Adamska is no charm agent; he doesn't have the training, and he doesn't play games he might not win. He is also capable of resisting decisions less favourable to his skill set and more favourable to his dick. (Unlike you, John.)
Consider instead, possibility #1: the jealous, grieving, jilted former lover of Big Boss. He's already made the mistake of betraying his inclinations - or was it a mistake? if this relationship turns out to be a long one, feigning asexuality or worse, an interest in physical relationships with women, will get tedious - so this could be the rationale for not pursuing the seemingly inevitable.
That could get old, though. He's not jealous because he's not your lover, he's not grieving because you're not dead, and he's not jilted because - let's be honest - he has more access to you than Miller does right now. Too many outright falsehoods.
Or how about possibility #2: he's the kind of man Miller himself doesn't want to fuck. The kind of man Miller finds insufferable - though he'll have to learn and adapt over the coming years - so much so that he'd decline the advantage it would give him.
That's more Adamska's style.
So, onto his linguistic options: #1 - he could speak no English at all, or only very poorly. He knows you've told Miller where he comes from, and you are fluent in Russian so it wouldn't have hampered your relationship any. They could speak through an interpreter, or painstakingly, through gestures, giving him ample time to react to questions posed and the opportunity to overhear comments the speaker might assume he can't understand.
He'll give Miller the benefit of the doubt and assume the man won't fall for that movie-style bullshit, though.
#2 - he speaks English well, but with a Russian accent. Many native English speakers find Russian accents intimidating, and Adamska's voice has deepened enough over the years to pull it off. He has the love of Westerns you've no doubt described to Miller, but is imperfect in his grasp of Western culture.
#3 - he speaks English natively. This could throw Miller off-guard, it could cause him to investigate how a man who'd spent his whole life training from childhood with the GRU managed perfectly fluency. He could throw him off the scent by affecting posh English RP to emphasize his ties with Zero, cause him to suspect FOXHOUND ties with standard midwestern or east coast US, cause him to question everything he knows by going Aussie or Welsh.
No, no, no. Given Miller's complicated relationship with his adoptive nation, cloying Americana is the only way to go.
And let's be honest, he was always going to pick #3.
Oh, he's wanted to use it for ages, and now he finally has the chance to stroll on in and drawl, a second or two after he opened the door to Miller's office, "You must be the man they call Kah-zah-he-rah Miller," like a west Texas cowboy from a 1930s radio drama, a spectacular mangling of the man's given name to boot.
That first strike lands for maximum damage; Miller's index finger actually twitches on his pen.
Ocelot's gait is low and slow, measured and smooth, and he lands each footfall with purpose - that purpose being to ensure his spurs jangle - as he approaches the chair set out for him. He rests his hands on the back it, instead of sitting, a petty gesture ostensibly intended to give him the higher ground.
"Ocelot." Miller inclines his head. "Snake told me about you."
The message: don't mock me. Cut the bullshit. I know things about you and you don't know things about me and that gives me an advantage. Snake tells me personal things about you. My relationship with Snake is personal. Yours isn't. You're here at my behest. My sufferance.
It's one of Ocelot's prepared lines, and he responds with some scripted platitude that he'd have to check his notes to recall. Miller does an amateurish job of parsing it, and triggers another. Might be 'how was your flight from (wherever Zero told him he was coming from)', might be 'where the fuck is Snake you piece of shit' - it's inconsequential. Ocelot is no longer paying attention.
You only get to meet someone for the first time once, and Ocelot isn't going to waste it on small talk. No he's going to watch every muscle in Miller's face move. Observe the direction of his eyes. Notice what his first instincts are. Pace the room to look like he isn't watching any of it. Handle objects to see which bother Miller and which don't.
Miller is wearing a conventional sidearm under his jacket; he also has a pocket pistol strapped under his desk that Ocelot spots when he wanders up behind him, daring the other man to object. Smart. Bland paperwork that will give away nothing but gives the impression of a Busy Man on the Up and Up; anything of consequence will be stashed well away from prying eyes.
Miller is still triggering scripted responses by the time Ocelot has touched and turned so many things that it'll be a convenient mature of the man's intelligence to see if he can put them all back correctly. A decent measure of his spite if he doesn't bother.
Oh, and yes, "Put that down," is one of his triggers.
Miller's patience wears out before his charm does. For all Ocelot will tease him in the coming years about his feminine traits, Miller's inability to master his own anger is so stereotypically masculine it borders on comical. Ocelot would burst out laughing, if that was part of his present persona. Which it is not.
"Are you ready?" Miller finally gets to the point, but not before betraying deep irritation.
"Thought you'd never ask," Ocelot truthfully admits.
It isn't one of his prompts.
(In case you were wondering, John, no: he doesn't normally put this much effort into his conversations. But making a good first impression is very important.)
Ocelot is introduced to the other two members of their four man team in the dingy garage that does double duty as their storage locker and target range. It looks like a hovel, frankly - walls rusted through tht point there are holes, and a single, swaying lightbulb - but after the CIA seized the MSF's assets, it's all Miller can afford.
Ocelot wonders if the man really thinks he can build a mercenary empire without standing on your shoulders. Unlikely.
Dingo is from the MSF, either loyal enough or stupid enough not to vanish to some uncharted island in the South Pacific, lucky enough not to be murdered by XOF, like most of the other survivors have been in the past few months. She's French Canadian - one exclamation of tabarnak upon having to kick the creaking door closed is enough to confirm that much - carries a spare shotgun, and makes eyes at Miller like a dopey little puppy.
Jackal is South African, Afrikaans - which Ocelot has always been partial to the sound of but never really mastered - and all. He has at least four handguns strapped to his body in various places, and his tactical sunglasses, from which he has not removed the strap, are as delightfully pretentious as Miller's aviators. Ocelot likes him already. A respectable new hire, fresh out of maximum security prison for armed robbery.
"Boss, I thought you said he was Russian," Dingo remarks, intelligently observing that he is not.
"Only on my father's side," Ocelot demurs, "My mother is as American as apple pie."
Apple pie isn't American, which he knows. And he knows that Miller knows. And with the slightest twitch of his lips Miller knows that he knows. (It goes without saying that he knows that Miller knows that he knows.)
But Miller isn't willing to burn their budding relationship to the ground and salt the ashes by confronting him, yet.
Clearly Ocelot has more work to do.
"You can change here," Miller offers generously; his tone makes it clear that Ocelot is his subordinate, suggests that he tolerates his presence out of loyalty to his old master. "You're welcome to use a real weapon, too."
By 'real' weapon, Miller must mean one of the bargain bucket FN FAL rifles they had lined up in their gun rack. Cast offs from the RAR. Not substandard by any means; rather bog standard: the McDonalds of of battle rifles, spread across the globe and just as flavourless. Unsuitable for a gourmet like Ocelot. "Thank you, Miller, but no. The Single Action Army is the greatest weapon ever made."
It's a statement so astoundingly asinine Miller apparently doesn't know what to make of it: the tactical advantages of a rifle notwithstanding, there is no way a double-action trigger isn't an improvement in every respect.
"No," Miller finally cuts through the bullshit. "No. Show me how you're going to lay suppressing fire with an antique showpiece."
"My pleasure," Ocelot spins one up into his grasp with an index finger, hits the hammer with his palm, and fires all six rounds in the space of a breath; follows that up with the second a beat later. All twelve across four targets, all at chest level.
He doesn't usually blow on his barrels, but he will this time. Why not. Spin the other and catch at the same time before holstering both.
"Not bad," coos Jackal. Pulls his own shiny new Mamba pistol from his thigh holster and uses a compressed surprise break to compensate for the lengthier action; all 15 rounds just above Ocelot's own.
Ocelot's eyes meet his, and--
"Okay, now you both need to reload, right?" Miller pours cold water over their burgeoning romance, "Yeah? That's what I thought," and dumps a plebeian FN FAL off on both of them.
"We leave in fifteen minutes."
Still all business.
This isn't going to be easy.
(He asks just enough questions to keep Miller from heading back to his office to put his belongings in order, though.)
The job is about as basic as can be: communist-backed revolutionaries of Rhodesia had been looking to overthrow their technically illegal minority government for some time now, in the form of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army. With the fall of - or, rather, the achievement of independence in neighbouring Mozambique, some, like their employer, saw the writing on the wall. They are to escort him, and his liquidated property, out of ZANLA-held territory safely.
Much to Ocelot's chagrin, hadn't even occurred to him why Miller might have called him up and asked him to come along on this routine contract, aside from: 1) an excuse to finally meet him in person (establish a relationship, exploit it for information), or 2) to get on Ocelot's good side (people react favourably to those who owe them debts, and unfavourably to whom they owe debts - seems counterintuitive, but it's true, look it up), or both.
No, Miller is all business, and all too keenly aware of a reality Ocelot often forgets. He's recruiting primarily from Africa these days, and with Ocelot in tow he has a four-man team with added value.
Good thing their client, a wealthy landholder named Augustus Reed, doesn't seem to know there's a little wasabi mixed with his mayonnaise.
"I love Americans," says Augustus when Ocelot admits to being out of town.
"We recruit from all over the world," Miller interjects, in an obvious bid to keep anyone else in his crew from doing the talking.
(In his defense, he did work for you, John, so he's probably accustomed to being the brains of the operation.)
"Well, not all over the world," Ocelot winks knowingly at their employer as his very own armoured car makes deep, rumbling tracks in reddish mud. Night has fallen - clear advantages to doing it that way, less obvious drawbacks. Miller either likes to play it safe or has a somewhat mediocre grasp of tactics.
"I see that," Augustus replies, hearing that particular dog whistle five by five. "It's good to see in this day and age, let me tell you. I hear you're running into the same problems back in your country."
"Yes we do indeed," Ocelot nods interestedly; turns around in the passenger's seat beside the driver - Miller, naturally - and accidentally bumps the windshield wiper.
Miller turns it off without comment. Opens his mouth to try to strangle this conversation in the crib, but Ocelot has the other man going, now, and he snaps it shut in distaste when their employer begins his diatribe about the doom Rhodesia is sure to face when the white man unshoulders his burden here. Adam manages to jostle free a few choice terms from his days with the CIA in the 50s, and after he drops them Augustus looks thrilled to have a kindred spirit aboard, Dingo disgusted, and Jackal furiously struggling to maintain some measure of neutrality.
Miller, though, is impossible to read.
Ocelot turns the windshield wiper back on when he shoulder checks to turn a corner.
Honestly, though, how in the world did Miller know for a fact that Ocelot was white himself? Did that come up in your conversations? How? 'Oh yeah, me and Ocelot go way back. He's pure Aryan, so if he ever had a threesome with us half-breeds it'd be like regular sex.'
Ocelot's a dirty slav, anyhow.
Or does Miller not know there are all kinds of people in the USSR?
It beats this particular lecture fresh from the 1860s, so Ocelot states, "If there's one thing Reds have right, it's that," before realizing belatedly that Miller isn't Eva, or Zero, or even one of his GRU or KGB acquaintances, and may not be able to track insinuations on that level, let alone respond in kind without giving the game away.
But Miller doesn't miss a beat: "You've clearly never been past the Urals. Siberia is full of Orientals."
Delivered deadpan. Not even the slightest quirk of his lips downward or upward, nor the faintest hint of self-deprecation. "Not quite the same thing, I'd say. They're a hard-working, industrious type. Just look at all the progress the Japs've made," Ocelot generously offers.
"They're crafty in their own way, but you can't trust them."
"I do like their girls, though. Nice 'n welcoming, and they still know their place. None of this Women's Lib nonsense."
"Sure, if you like sideways pussy."
Augustus nods sagely, Dingo's head snaps back in shock, Jackal tilts his head bewildered, and it's a dire struggle for Ocelot not to break character. As it stands he has to rub his gloved hand over his grin to quash it.
Ocelot is spared when Miller spots a toppled tree in the road and starts to slow; Ocelot grips his arm, "Go around it." Surely he isn't about to fall for the world's most obvious improvised roadblock?
"That'll be an invitation to open fire." Miller pulls them to a stop a stop in front of it. "Don't worry," he tells Augustus, "we'll have it cleared in a second."
Or does he plan to rob August himself? Doubtless the bigger payoff in the short term, terrible for business in the long term. Would he risk it? For all he's sized him up, what he's been able to infer, what was in the dossier, Ocelot doesn't really know Miller at all. And Miller hasn't told him a damn thing.
They leave the car first and Ocelot thinks the man is about to fill him in on the plan, but all he says, out of earshot of the others, is: "Nips."
"If you're going to pretend to be from the west, it's nips, not japs."
Dingo and Jackal form up behind them, lackluster rifles held in that casual but menacing 'I'm not firing right now but I could fire' way common to thugs of all stripes. Miller makes a show of inspecting their situation while Jackal steps off the beaten path, into the trees.
Where armed ZANLA rebels await him.
Ah, not tactically incompetent. Just risk-averse. Ocelot can lip read, but he can't lip read Afrikaans. Still, the body language suggests that their intrepid businessman leader has bribed these particular rebels into letting just this one colonial imperialist escape with all his ill-gotten gains; a win-win, and all it costs everybody involved is their integrity.
It's an excellent plan, really. If they were dealing with fellow mercenaries or other private forces it would've gone off without a hitch. Ocelot'd guarantee it.
But the ZANLA fighters aren't mercenaries. They're idealists. They have a cause they truly believe in; a cause they'll die for and, like clockwork one of them finds a conscience and kicks up a fuss. Ocelot can't lip read Afrikaans, but he imagines it goes a little like:
"Why are we only taking some of their money when we could be taking it all? It belongs to the people!"
Jackal is jostled, rifles are raised, Miller steps in to settle things down while Dingo keeps her eyes on the car and their client like she should be, and Ocelot only feels a little guilty about the metaphor for world affairs that crosses his mind at that moment.
If things had gone a little differently that night he might've told Miller, though - he now seemed like the kind of man who'd get a kick out of it.
As it stands, well, their employer caught wind of what was going on and shouted something truly unfortunate. Miller did an admirable job of attempting to defuse the situation - more money, they all walk away, think about what you're doing, so on, so forth. Seemed to be winning most of them over, in fact.
But when Ocelot spots one with sloppy trigger discipline aiming directly at Jackal's head, knowing it'll take nothing more than a loud noise for him to fire, he knows he can no longer take any chances. Whoever shoots first is going to win this firefight and everybody on the opposing team is going to die.
Miller hits the ground when Ocelot starts firing, from behind the cover of the vehicle's hood. It's the smart thing to do and, after losing everything he'd ever worked for by not doing the smart thing, Miller seems to be more inclined to take the path of least fatality, these days. Dingo drags their client down behind the seats; the stopping power of her shotgun comes in handy when the rebels approach the door.
They have to reload and Ocelot doesn't; he fakes it, though, dropping back down behind the engine block and the survivors dutifully wait for his head to pop back up so they can blow it off. He rattles one magazine like it was jammed, slings the rifle, draws both of his revolvers, drops behind the wheel, rolls out and takes aimed shots from beneath the car.
Takes them a second too long to figure out where that's coming from.
The distraction's enough: Miller mercilessly guns down the rest. Steps over Jackal's bullet-ridden corpse, stalks toward the car, and picks Ocelot right up by the scarf.
"I had that under control," he grates through gritted teeth. "You just cost me one of my best men."
"It was him or us," Ocelot shrugs. Well, half-shrugs. Before Miller decks him, and he'd like to say it didn't hurt but it really did hurt. He sees stars and has to crack his jaw back into place afterward.
"I don't know what you learned in the GRU," Miller drops him, expression black, "but we don't sacrifice comrades."
Well, that's stupid, Ocelot thinks. That's how we won the war.
They don't speak for the rest of the night.
Ocelot tries pressing a few more buttons, but Miller's done playing. They deliver Augustus and his dirty money to safety. Get paid. Bonus and everything thanks to his and Ocelot's good rapport and God's work making the world a little brighter. Miller isn't even happy about that, nor when the lethal combination of grief and adrenaline looks sure to get Dingo's panties off for him.
No, even when Ocelot kindly offers to dispose of the bodies, Miller makes it clear that he never wants to see him again unless it's at the business end of a barrel. They part ways that morning as slightly less than enemies.
Too bad there's not much chance of that, Adam reflects, rewarding himself with another healthy dose of caffeine to ward off another sleepless night. His styrofoam cup is stained with pink fingerprints; he takes his gloves off when he's about to get them too dirty. He's in a good mood - corpses are the best anatomy practice. Ocelot will be far better prepared for the next encounter with the man, should there be one.
Jackal's report to XOF on Miller is much less carefully curated than Zero's, you see. Contains all kinds of naughty details.
Mamba pistols are still in development in 1975. A man who has them has ties to weapons R&D - he's no common criminal. And nobody who could shoot like that wouldn't be bought for a price Miller'd be able to pay.
From there Jackal's corpse has his address and his keys and his contacts aren't all that hard to find. Adam doesn't yank the chain, though. He'll wait. Miller's going to be gone on another job for days. Jackal reported as much. His death wasn't suspicious, in the line of duty, so when the bugs Ocelot's planted in Miller's office pick up the tell-tale sounds of a raid, he hits the detonator.
If any of them are unfortunate enough to survive, he's all warmed up.
(What. You didn't really think he was messing around with Miller's stuff just to get his rocks off, did you?)
(In payment for that aching jaw, though, he'll scatter a few breadcrumbs for Miller to find that hint that Ocelot was the one who sold them out.)