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The vocal cord parasites, referred to as the "curse of the forked tongue" among Central African villagers,[1] are a group of parasitic organisms that infect a victim's vocal cords.


The existence of vocal cord parasites was theorized by the Diné scientist Code Talker as early as the 1930s.[2] In 1964, Code Talker discovered the parasite dubbed "the one that covers" from the remains of ancient sniper The End, provided by a foundation with links to the Philosophers. The many new discoveries made by Code Talker in his research prompted the American Philosophers to use it in recreating the extinct vocal cord parasites as part of their ethnic cleanser project, but the project was abandoned after it was deemed that targeting an entire language was too inaccurate to be useful.

Vocal cord parasites were later resurrected in 1975, after Cipher isolated its DNA coding from an ancient human cadaver excavated from a permafrost region, followed by reverse evolution of a relative species of Pentastomida discovered by the Chinese Philosophers. They were uncovered and stolen by Cipher's XO Skull Face, who forced Code Talker to weaponize the parasite and create various strains that would reproduce when exposed to a specific language spoken by the host. Skull Face himself was infected with every strain of the parasite except for the English version, which also cost him his ability to speak his native tongue, Hungarian. Although forced by Skull Face to recreate and weaponized the parasite, Code Talker also had his own personal motives for recreating the parasites and specifically to create a strain to target the English language: Having held immense hatred for the English language due to his terrible childhood at an American Indian Boarding School where he was forced to give up Navajo, he desired crafting a "deterrent" for minority languages to use against lingua franca as revenge towards the English language.

Skull Face attempted to use the vocal cord parasites in his plans in the 1980s, to wipe the English language and vocal lingua franca off the face of the Earth. He led Code Talker to believe that he planned to use the parasites as an ethnic cleanser.[3] Russian and Pashto strains were deployed in Afghanistan to kill Soviet and Hamid fighters, respectively, while Afrikaner and Kikongo strains were released in Central Africa, killing PF soldiers from the Contract Forces of Africa, and infecting child soldiers, who became carriers.

Signs of the infection.

In 1984, an outbreak of the vocal cord parasites occurred on Mother Base, which spread amongst speakers of Kikongo. Ignorant of the cause and unable to treat the infection, Venom Snake of Diamond Dogs rescued Code Talker from Skull Face's XOF forces, in order to discover a way to halt the spread of the parasite.

Code Talker revealed that infecting the parasites with Wolbachia bacteria would cause them all to change into females, halting their reproduction and preventing hosts from becoming symptomatic, but at the cost of the hosts' fertility. He also revealed that children act as carriers of the parasite, as the parasites only infect matured vocal chords, and the war orphans' rescues to Mother Base were the reason that the Kikongo parasite infection occurred. It is also revealed that Snake's destruction of the Mfinda Oilfield was what caused the Kikongo infection to spread, as Skull Face had intended to pollute the water to contain the parasite infection he had tested elsewhere in the Angola-Zaire border region.

With Code Talker's knowledge, Diamond Dogs XO Kazuhira Miller believed Skull Face's plans were to target all languages besides English with the vocal cord parasites, supported by their prior investigation at Ngumba Industrial Zone.[3] Upon his defeat by Diamond Dogs, Skull Face possessed a container on his person capable of holding three vials of the English strain, one of which was destroyed by Venom Snake in a fire. A second was secretly recovered by Tretij Rebenok after Snake believed it destroyed, while the third had previously been used to infect Quiet. When Snake demanded to know the location of the third sample, a dying Skull Face cryptically stated that it was "very close" to him. Tretij Rebenok later supplied the second sample to Eli in secret, shortly after journeying to Diamond Dogs' Mother Base.

A second deadly outbreak occurred on Mother Base as a result of Huey Emmerich mutating both the parasite and the Wolbachia with beta radiation.[4] The Wolbachia mutation changed the female parasites to undergo parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction, leading them to reproduce more female parasites for the Wolbachia to infect. The parasites mutated as well, making the infected staff members smell sickly sweet and infected them like how the Leucochloridium worm parasitizes snails, driving the men mad, not unlike what happens when humans are infected with toxoplasmosis, to get to the top roof of the quarantine platform where the circling crows, drawn by the sweet smell, would peck at them and then spread the infection to the whole world. Venom Snake prevents the worldwide outbreak by killing the infected in the quarantine platform, even though some get by him at first and get incinerated by a napalm bombing on the roof, using specially modified night vision goggles that detect the parasites in the infected victims' throats. The remaining fallen were cremated to neutralize the parasite. Huey was identified as a traitor, after it was revealed he had planned to sell the parasite to DARPA, which was connected to Cipher, in exchange for safety, and was thus exiled.

Tretij Rebenok removing the vocal cord parasite out of Eli's body.

After Eli had been discovered to be behind the orphans' escapes off of Mother Base, he and Tretij Rebenok escaped Mother Base with some of the other children and Sahelanthropus. They made their base on an island in a salt lake in central Africa, infecting the entire island with the parasite and killing off all adults. He only avoided being infected himself because he was still a child, and he kept a gas mask on at all times. However, as time goes on, his voice began to crack, hinting that he would soon become a victim and vector of the parasite as well. Snake infiltrated the island, while Cipher forces invaded as well to try to recapture Sahelanthropus. After the battle, Snake stopped Sahelanthropus. With Sahelanthropus down, Cipher forces approached Eli and Snake, and a flash grenade was fired, leading Snake to suffer a seizure that made him colorblind to the color red, the same color as the jumpsuit Eli was wearing while piloting Sahelanthropus. Snake shot the masked Cipher soldiers going to kill him and Eli.

However, he inadvertently shot Eli as well, just as his color vision returned to normal. Diamond Dogs forces arrived on the island to extract Snake and treat Eli, who was revealed to be wearing a bulletproof vest. Unfortunately, a medic discovered Eli had been infected with the parasite as well. Diamond Dogs left Eli to his fate, with Snake even giving him a gun to kill himself before the parasite took hold. Shorty thereafter, Tretij Rebenok appeared to stop him, using his telekinetic powers to remove the parasite from Eli's body. They then left the island together before Diamond Dogs' napalm carpet bombing eradicated all life on the island to prevent the parasite from spreading again.

Zero himself hinted that the original project of the American Philosophers to use the parasites would eventually evolve into the FOXDIE virus project, allowing the Patriots to target the victim's genetic code itself rather than just their language.


A victim of the vocal cord parasite at Mfinda Oilfield.

Initially in larval form, the parasite entered through the throat and attached to the vocal cords, mimicking the host's membranes flawlessly. Upon reaching maturity, the larvae mate, triggered by sustained exposure to the specific language the parasite was attuned to, though parasites could be scientifically manipulated to target specific languages, as Skull Face attempted to use them to eradicate English as a language by having the parasites kill all who spoke it, as well as various other strains of the parasite to get rid of any lingua franca that might replace English. The resulting larvae then feast on the host's lungs, killing the host. As the hosts die, they revert to a zombie like state of dementia that violently work to ensure the parasite infects others and spreads throughout populated areas. The zombie like infected only want to carry out the will of the parasite controlling them and lose their own willpower, sense of loyalty, and sanity upon their succumbing to the parasite's control. Once symptoms of infection manifest, the larvae had infested the host's alveoli, at which point nothing could be done to save the host. Speaking at all would result in possible infection, although it is heavily implied that the rate of infection reaching critical condition could be either hastened or slowed down significantly depending on the infected person's talkative nature.

Venom Snake holding a vial containing a vocal cord parasite, presented to him by Code Talker.

Code Talker possessed a pipe with an herb that the parasite disliked, which, when smoked, would allow the host to speak for some time with their parasite "deafened." He also possessed a strain of the bacteria genus Wolbachia that could, by turning the male version of the parasite to females, halt the onset of symptoms, but would also make the host infertile. In addition, contamination of water will also prevent infection, as XOF, via the front company SANR, caused an oil leak to ensure the parasite cannot be spread to the local villages as the area the oil facility was at contained mass graves of people infected with the parasites. Being mute, either willingly or otherwise, would obviously ensure that the Vocal Cord Parasites don't mate and become contagious. This was most especially apparent with the mute Hamid survivor Silent Basilisk during not only the outbreak that wiped out the Hamid fighters, but also two subsequent outbreaks on Mother Base, as well as the sniper Quiet (the latter of whom chose to not speak at all save for Navajo at one point up until she found herself forced to speak English to save Venom Snake's life). In addition, because Code Talker had engineered them largely as revenge towards the English language for robbing him of his ability to speak Navajo and making the Dine forget the language, they also were engineered to not infect anyone speaking the Navajo language, which was how Quiet could bypass her otherwise mute nature to communicate with Code Talker shortly after being tortured by Kazuhira Miller.

Behind the scenes

The vocal cord parasites are a major element in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

The parasite bears a resemblance to an unnamed virus featured in the book-turned-movie Pontypool Changes Everything, which is transmitted via the use of English vocabulary and causes zombie-like behavior in its host.

In the cassette tape "Vocal Cord Parasites [2] - The First Infection", Ocelot mentions Skull Face telling Venom Snake that the final English strain of the parasite was "very close to you" during the ending cutscene of Episode 31. This is an inconsistency as this tape is received after Episode 29, before the events of Episode 31.


Notes and references

  1. ^ Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Kojima Productions (2015).
    Mission 26 - Hunting Down
    Mbele prisoner: [...] Whatever's making people sick, they made more of it at that factory. The sickness at the village downriver. They called it the "curse of the forked tongue." Because the talkative ones were the first to die.
  2. ^ Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Kojima Productions (2015).
    Mission 35 - Cursed Legacy > Briefing Tape
    Kazuhira Miller: According to Code Talker, the research papers account for over 50 years of study.
  3. ^ a b Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Kojima Productions (2015).
    Code Talker: He [Skull Face] claims they [vocal cord parasites] are the dream of every ruler since the dawn of time. Teach them your enemy's words, then unleash them on his lands. Destroying only those who speak his tongue. He calls them his "ethnic cleansers." // Kazuhira Miller: "Ethnic cleansers..." That's what Skull Face is after...? Then Nzo ya Badiabulu was... Boss! He's going to wipe every language besides English off the face of the earth!! // Code Talker: Ironic, isn't it? They gave us language, and now they take it away. It was thanks to them that man first learned to speak. But now, the hands of their clock turned back, they've been warped by the hands of man.
  4. ^ Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Kojima Productions (2015).
    Ocelot: His [Huey's] "research materials" caused the [radiation] leak at the quarantine facility. Which in turn caused the Wolbachia mutation, letting the parasites off their chains. We [Diamond Dogs] lost a lot of good men.