Aliases: Jack; Naked Snake
M.O.: Close-quarters combat specialist
First Appearance: Metal Gear (Konami, 1987, MSX)
Known crimes: Held world for ransom via Metal Gear nuclear strikes, decimation of world oil reserve, etc.
Nature of demise: Willingly succumbed to Foxdie virus upon seeking redemption through exposition

Profile by Jeremy Parish? | January 31, 2011

Jack peered down at his drink -- directly down, thanks to the broken perspective offered by his single working eye. Funny how it was mostly times like these, when his vision began swimming from the buzz of a stiff scotch, that the eyepatch he’d worn for decades chafed the most. It never bothered him, say, during a reflective moment on his patio at the end of the day, when the patch was a warm, sun-soaked spot of blackness stranded against the cool of an evening breeze. Neither did it irritate him in the sweltering humidity of the jungle when the heat and sweat made his occluded flesh itch and chafe. Nor was it in the heat of combat, when the patch was nothing but a dangerous blind spot that hit potential attackers from his sight.

No, it only irritated him when the world began to blur and everything began to take on the watery, magnified look it had when viewed through the bottom of a shot glass. That’s when Jack had to fight the compulsion to tear the patch from his face. Rationally, he knew that trying to look around through his ruined eye would only make matters worse, but that didn’t soften his instinctive compulsion. As if he could rip aside the patch and suddenly be able to see clearly, without the spinniness of a whiskey bender.

He realized his index finger was fussing with the patch and forced himself to pull his hand away. He settled instead for scratching his thin, white beard in frustration and drained his drink. The emptied glass joined its fallen comrades in a neat line at the back edge of the bar as the bartender dutifully poured reinforcements. Jack sighed and laid down a bill in exchange for the drink. He held it gingerly between two fingers, stirring the glass idly with a small, thoughtless motion.

“Damn prequels,” rumbled a voice from his blind spot. Jack startled slightly, spilling a few drops of amber liquor on the grimy bar top. He quietly berated himself for having become so fixated on his drinking and musings that he’d allowed someone to catch him unawares.

He felt especially stupid once he craned his neck to get a clear look at the figure two seats down from him. Impossibly tall, clad head-to-toe in gleaming black armor, the man wore a skull-like mask and respirator beneath a sloped helmet whose design brought to mind a corrupt samurai summoned back from the stygian abyss.

Spec ops!? Jack wondered to himself. He hadn’t heard of any elite units operating in the region, and he’d certainly never heard of any operative by this description. And he was fairly confident that he’d have caught wind of seven feet of steel and leather adorned with arcane electronics and breathing with a loud artificial rasp so rhythmic you could tell the time with it. Jack reflexively sized up his unexpected barstool companion, weighing his options in the event this was a devious assassination attempt. Something told him that neither close-quarters combat nor standard firearms were likely to be much use against this fellow. He seemed to embody the entire concept of “immovable object,” and Jack was about five shots too far gone to qualify as anything resembling an irresistible force. He decided to play the odds and take the stranger at face value -- though it was, admittedly, a rather intimidating face.

“Huhn,” Jack muttered in something like agreement and looked down at his drink. A droplet of whiskey had splashed onto his index finger. He gently placed his glass on the counter and flicked away the alcohol with a quick, subtle motion.

His new drinking buddy apparently took Jack’s response as encouragement to continue, or maybe he too was far enough gone that he didn’t need encouragement. Jack noticed a small opening in the mouth grill of the man’s respirator, just the right size to receive the delicate straw poking out from his drink, which looked to be a rum and coke. The coke had clearly been recovered from a fresh mining operation and still smoked slightly. “Am I right? Prequels. Nothing ruins a great villain like a little backstory.” Angrily, he clenched a massive, gloved fist. An empty beer can on a table ten meters away collapsed inward on itself in response. Crushed flat.

Jack took a sip of his scotch. His finger described a circle on the bar, tracing the perimeter of the impression the shotglass left in his over spill. He could certainly sympathize with his drinking companion; he knew all too well how prequels could change everything for a career villain. “That’s for damn sure,” he muttered.

His response galvanized the black-clad man, who continued his lamentation. “I used to be an icon, you know. I was an implacable symbol of cruelty and power.” The straw vanished into the grill, nearly comical in its diminutive scale so close to the polished steel giant. Jack watched as the drink disappeared with surprising grace, betrayed at the last moment by the faintest sucking sound. “Now, I’m just ‘little Annie,’ an impotent symbol of gullibility and whining. No longer the terror of the galaxy, just a clingy mama’s boy reduced to being a whipping post for any two-bit video game hero who comes along.”

He let out an electronic sound that Jack presumed was meant to be a leaden sigh, but it was at cross-purposes with the respirator and sounded slightly like a robot hiccuping. Jack sympathized, having been dredged up from the dead and restored to life as a cyborg his own fair number of times.

But Jack’s own prequel problems were totally the opposite of the other man’s. Explorations of his past hadn’t undermined his legacy by revealing him as a weak-minded child whose short temper and utter lack of guile led to his betrayal and downfall. Quite the contrary; he had made the transition from a cackling, run-of-the-mill, two-bit villain to a fully realized and highly sympathetic protagonist. It had done wonders for his reputation at the expense of compromising the entire franchise.

As Naked Snake, he had become a more likable and relatable -- yet realistically flawed -- hero than his son/clone/predecessor/successor Solid Snake, by far. He was an elite soldier, gifted in hand-to-hand combat and military tactics alike, and his powerful relationship with his mentor gave him both emotional depth and a reason to feel justifiably betrayed when the American government demanded she fall on her own sword to help the Pentagon save face.

But his stint as Naked Snake was practically impossible to reconcile with his original debut as Big Boss, the pompous mastermind who betrayed his own underling -- and offspring -- in a bid to build a sovereign nation through the threat of a nuclear Damocles’ sword. How was one to believe that he could go from complex, heartbroken soldier to monologuing villain so easily? Worse, how could anyone be expected to believe that a man of his experience could be so easily bested by his green recruit of a son? Or that he would be stupid enough to face off against a man armed with a rocket launcher without attempting to move in close to make use of his superior CQC skills? Or that upon his return, years later, he would repeat the same tactical errors only to be taken down by nothing more than a lighter and a can of hairspray?

And that wasn’t even getting into that whole cyborg thing under the guise of Higharolla Kockamamie, which he was increasingly convinced was only a bad dream.

To make matters worse, the more his creators attempted to flesh out his motivations and justify his eventual turn to nuclear terrorism, the less believable it became. By this point, his own schemes had been revealed as little more than watered-down rehashes of other people’s machinations, with shadowy forces going to increasingly preposterous lengths to manipulate him into betraying his homeland.

And then there was the matter of the wheelchair-bound man back in his hotel room, waiting quietly for tomorrow’s trip to the cemetery where his mentor was buried....

Finally, after much deliberation, Jack spoke.

“The important thing to remember is that it’s not your fault,” he said. “We do our best, but try as we might to write our own destinies, sometimes there’s no escaping the script that life hands us.” He paused. “Sorry, that sounds like a lot of predestination claptrap. That’s not like me at all.”

His companion was silent but for the steady rhythm of the respirator.

“I suppose the most you can do is hold on to the good times and remind yourself that you’re the person you remember from there. No one else can tell you who you are, and to hell with reputations. They’re meaningless. No, be true to yourself, and eventually everyone will come to see you for who you truly are, not for who they’ve been told you are.”

The dark man chuckled mechanically. “Easy for you to say. You don’t have billboards plastering the city with images of you being humiliated and defeated. And let’s not even talk about the Internet memes....”

“Heh. Maybe so.”

Jack drained the last of his whiskey and moved to rise. He slapped a large denomination bill on the bar and slid it toward the server, who somehow managed to pocket it before Jack was completely on his feet. The grizzled mercenary veteran paused for a moment to let the room come to a stop, then placed a reassuring hand on the stranger’s armored shoulder.

“Take care, my friend,” he said.

“Thanks,” the other man replied in his processed basso growl.

Jack paused, then leaned in close and whispered, confidentially, “By the way, as one reconstructed cyborg to another... have you ever considered nanomachines? They can fix everything.”

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