50 meters an hour. That's the fastest I can crawl, elbow over elbow, without making the AC duct creak. The sweat stings my eyes a little behind my night-vision goggles, but I dare not blink. I'm deep in the enemy HQ. 10 more meters now. I can see the light coming in through the grate. I push my goggles up on to my forehead and allow myself to wipe a gloved hand across my cheeks. The air creeps in and out of my lungs to keep the noise down. My chest burns from the need to breathe.
I slither the last few inches up to the mesh opening of the duct and start to snake my fiber optic camera between the metal slats. The hallway below is well lit but deserted. There is a little creak from the grate as I pull it open, then I'm on the floor. The room is warm after the constant cold blast of the air conditioner. I crouch and break into a run to get to the retinal scanner in front of me. I have to be fast. People are depending on me.
Cable in, hacking program started. Come on, come on.
Something clinks behind me and my head snaps around.
"Chip?" I ask. "Why are you in the kitchen?"
"Who said that? Come out where I can see you," the T.V. demands.
Chip looks at me with an odd, uncomprehending expression. "Because I'm making a sandwich. Mute your headset."
I mute the microphone on my communicator and turn back to Chip. "I meant why aren't you in Korea?"
Chip looks up from his sandwich and wrinkles his face as if to say "What?"
"Korea." I look at him. "With me, in Splinter Cell. Double Agent comes out in October and we have to practice." I sigh in relief as recognition returns to Chip's face. Then I frown when it is instantly replaced with apathy.
Chip shrugs and takes a big bite of his sandwich. "Why bother?"
"What do you mean why bother?" I angrily shoot back.
"Oh God," Chip says as the color runs from his face. "No one has told you." He sets his plate down and starts to walk over to me slowly.
"Told me what Chip? What has happened?" I look up as he stands next to the couch.
"Well, little buddy, I don't really know how to break this to you, but," he has to close his eyes. The words are too painful. "Cooperative play isn't going to be in Double Agent."
I drop my controller and can feel my heart swelling in my throat. "What? What do you mean? Oh, God, I was just playing co-op. It seemed fine. How did this happen?"
"These things just happen, bud. It isn't anyone's fault. These things just happen." Chip says as he pats me on the shoulder.
"No, that doesn't sound right." I say through my tears. "I think it's the developer's fault."
"Shhhhhh. Don't try to figure it out, little buddy, it's all for a purpose." Chip's breath smells like tuna. That's when it really hits me that this is all happening and the reality is too much to bear.
"Oh God Co Co! Co Co why did you have to leave!" I blubber into my hands as I collapse back on to the couch.
Chip is right there with me, starting to tear up a little himself. The wound is still fresh for him too. "It's ok, little soldier, it's ok. CoOp is in a better place now. A happy place. She's up there with Passcode and Highscore. They will take good care of each other."
I sniff up the snot as my tears lessen and eventually stop. "Really? CoOp's got friends where it is? Promise?"
Chip smiles and wipes away his tear with his thumb, smearing tuna on his face. "I promise. So let's not cry, ok? After all, CoOp always wanted us to be happy, didn't it? We just have to remember all the great times we had."
"It was only, like, 4 goddamned missions." I snort and cough a little, staring up at his tuna covered face.
Chip raises his hand. "Shhhhh. Just the good stuff, champ. Remember when you farted so loud the communicator picked it up and the terrorists, alerted by the sounds, opened fire on our position?"
I can't help but laugh. Chip always knows how to cheer me up, and he's right. I just have to think about the good times that CoOp and I had. We were only together for a short time but I'll remember it for the rest of my life.
So long, cooperative multiplayer mode. You will be missed.