Chapter 11 – The Suit Makes the Soldier

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Waiting to take off before a mission always made Link antsy. He hated waiting. It didn’t help that his shoulder was still aggravating him. The wound had been healed, but the nanites didn’t have the best bedside manner. The new flesh was just that: new. It hadn’t been worked or stretched or strengthened. This was going to be an unpleasant few hours, and he would be horribly sore the next day. At least his new uniform fit him better than the recruit outfit, or rather fit more comfortably. It didn’t take him long to find out how badly the general boot camp uniforms could chafe or ride up on the one unfortunate enough to be wearing it. It felt like he was a proper soldier now. All he had to do was wait for his mission load-out. There was some talk about his equipment being special. He hated being special. It meant he was different. He got enough of that growing up.

“Lieutenant Link?” asked an unfamiliar voice, pulling the young man from his thoughts.

“Um… do you mean private?” Link asked as he looked up from staring at the mark on his hand in confusion.

The petty officer shook his head, stepping away from the relatively small bulk cargo container he had been hauling behind him. It had snuck up with ghost-like silence while its recipient was otherwise occupied.

“No sir, says lieutenant here on the requisition form.” The officer said.

“Well it doesn’t say that on my uniform,” Link said as he looked down and pointed at the insignia on the left side of his chest, blinking as it shifted much like his badge did when he made detective, “Or… it didn’t used to.”

“Huh, guess they promoted you. Congratulations. Thumb print here please.” the officer said and held out a pad for the print in question.

Link pressed his thumb into it as he was asked and frowned a little.

“It would have been nice if they had informed me I was getting a promotion rather than just finding out like this.” he complained.

The petty officer gave him a nod as soon as the thumbprint was accepted.

“They’re probably real busy. Something’s going on. It’s got everyone on edge. It must have just gotten lost in the chaos. Happens sometimes,” the friendly man said, “If you have any mechanical difficulties, just contact your operator. They should be able to get you put in for diagnostics and service.”

“Kinda wish they’d given me a chance to shake down my suit before sending me out. I leave in half an hour.” Link complained again.

“Oh… well… this one’s fresh off the factory floor so it shouldn’t have any problems. Watch the paint job if you can. This was a custom build.” the petty officer said.

He entered the disarming code into the pad on the side of the crate. The sound of a number of bolting mechanisms disengaging came from within the specially designed shipping container. One whole side of the tall box split in two and swung open. Out slid the suit in question, its various mission-specific attachments and additions neatly organized on the inside of the two panels. Link sighed as he looked it over, understanding the comment about the paint job.

“Now they’re just being mean.” the new lieutenant said with a sigh.

He watched as the front of the suit opened, its various panels swinging out, sliding back, or moving out of the way in some other clever mechanical sense. Link climbed in and turned about, settling into place before it closed in around him. Without even putting his helmet on, a holographic display erupted from the collar. Immediately it began its initial startup. The petty officer wasn’t kidding. It was fresh off the line. Adjustments were made all over, conforming to Link’s arms, legs, and torso, ensuring a proper fit. A strange series of clicks and whines came from deep inside, likely along his back. It was hooking into the vitals monitor in his uniform. He was locked in now.

A brief rundown of the mission specifications scrolled across the immaterial screen, too fast to read with any degree of accuracy. Suddenly, the new lieutenant found himself unable to control his movement. His arms rose and locked in place, held out towards the two panels that had served as the opening of the crate. The various ‘toys’ hanging there swung out and lowered into place, attaching themselves to his suit. It looked bulky. It would be hard moving with so many gadgets and weapons taking up so much space. But then Link had some idea of what was to come next. He had seen as much on his suit back in Faron.

In that moment, as if it read his thoughts, all the new attachments retracted, switching into their disarmed state. With a bit of brilliant engineering and that fancy ‘quantum compression’ he had heard so much about, they were gone. His suit looked as if it wasn’t loaded out in the slightest. His arms fell back to his sides under his own control once again and the holographic display faded.

“No matter how many times I see that, I’m still mystified. I’d ask where they keep it all but I know the answer I’d get would just make my head hurt.” Link said.

“Nice huh? It’s got the latest, greatest arsenal management system to date. I’d love ta get my hands on one of these… take it for a spin through the obstacle course. Lucky bastard. You must have friends in some really high places ta get a sweet rig like this.” the petty officer said, his voice dripping with envy.

Link just shrugged and stepped out of the crate armed apparently to the teeth. He was quite suddenly feeling a bit more like he belonged where he was.

“I dunno about that. They think pretty highly of me; a bit more than I think I deserve honestly. I’m not gonna knock it though.” he said.

“Well I’m still jealous. I won’t keep you any longer. You should be good to go. Your operator’s probably already online taking stock. Good hunting, Lieutenant.” the petty officer said.

He saluted. Link offered a return salute before watching the young man haul the empty crate off to gods knew where. With less than half an hour to go, he was back to waiting. At least now he had something to distract himself with. He could go through the suit’s system operations information, get a feel for the armor and its capabilities.

He brought up the first of several operations files with intent to read, but he found he had a hard time focusing. His thoughts were elsewhere. Link looked out through the hanger as everyone shuffled about in a great big hurry, making it look like a bee hive. It was a terribly busy place but even then, he felt rather alone. Everyone had a job to do and they were busy doing it. He couldn’t even find the dropship he was assigned to.

“You look lost.” came a disembodied voice.

Link spun about, hunting for the source. No one was near enough, making him wonder if he had actually heard it, or if his mind was playing tricks on him.

“Back here… no, to the left. No, your other left!” The feminine voice continued to direct him, fruitlessly.

“Where are you!?” Link shouted in frustration.

“Heh, I’m on yer comms. I’m not actually there. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Name’s Nadia, I’ll be your operator. Nice ta meetcha, Lieutenant.” the lady in his ear said.

Link froze as he realized he was being pranked, his expression dimming at the notion.

“Good one… and yes, I am kind of lost. Am I even in the right place?” he asked as soon as he pushed away the desire to take his anger out on this Nadia person.

“Oh yeah, you’re where you need to be. You’re just early. Everyone else is busy getting ready. Guess it’s a good sign you’re so eager. Gives us a chance to run a quick diagnostic and give your suit a fast shakedown. Just hold still, I’ll take care of everything.” the lady said.

The lieutenant felt his entire body go rigid like his arms had before as the mysterious Nadia took over. The various plates of armor covering him slid about–shifting ever so slightly to test their movement–then eased back into place. It moved like a wave up his arms, across his chest and back, and down his legs, taking only a moment or two until it was complete.

“I’m told this is the latest model. You people sure know how to make a guy nervous. I feel like I’m gonna get the ‘you break it you bought it’ lecture.” Link said.

“Hey, only the best for the hero of Hyrule, right? You look good in green.” Nadia replied.

“Please don’t call me that.” the lieutenant said with a whine.

He could almost hear his operator shrug. She was a strange mix of professional and unprofessional, sounding like she knew when to get serious, but otherwise didn’t mind making light of whatever the situation was as needed.

“Suit yourself,” Nadia said, “I’m just the navigational and logistics officer. I just point you in the right direction. You got a nickname or a callsign?”

“No, it’s just Link.” he replied.

“Well ‘Just Link’, you can call me whatever ya like. We’re a team and that means we gotta be comfortable with one another.” Nadia said.

He huffed quietly, still trying to decide if he liked this casual attitude she seemed to put on for him.

“Tell you what, you don’t call me ‘hero’ and I won’t call you ‘Navi’.” the lieutenant said in an attempt to give her reason to put on a more formal air.

Surely that would snap her to attention. She fell silent for a moment. When she responded, it made Link grimace.

“Hey!” Nadia shouted, then dropped her voice back to a normal volume, “I kinda like that.”

She had a curious sense of humor indeed.

“You have got to be joking.” Link moaned.

“Like I said, call me whatever you like. Just tryin’ ta loosen you up a bit. It’s your first mission for the crown. We don’t want you so nervous that you shoot before you think.” the lady said.

There was a certain logic to her words. Maybe he should take her advice and try to calm himself.

“I think I’ll stick with Nadia.” Link replied.

“Suit yourself. I’m your other half while you’re in that suit. If you come up with something better, let’er rip. By the way, your ship is the third one on the left. The pilots are doing their final pre-flight checks. I’m sure they’d appreciate a little help.” the operator said.

Direction. That was a fresh change. Link turned and scanned the area, spotting the dropship in question. He made his way over to the dark craft, marveling at its sleek design. Two short sweeping wings, a pair of broad nacelles running half the length of the ship, two sliding doors on either side leading into where the passengers would ride, and the cockpit in the front with its doors open, complete with someone sitting in the pilot’s seat. Whoever they were, they looked familiar. As he approached, the sound of their voice was even more familiar. They were talking to another person standing just outside the pilot side door.

“I don’t care what they are telling you. I’m busy. I’m not letting this bird off the ground until I’ve run the pre-flight myself. I’m not taking any chances, not with what’s been going on lately.” said the familiar voice.

“I understand your concerns m’lady-” said another voice, unfamiliar, immediately cut off by the previous one.

“Don’t call me that. I hate that,” she snapped, annoyed more than just a bit by the formal title, then settled in short order, her voice dropping to a softer tone, “Makes me sound soft.”

The other figure, decidedly feminine, lowered her head slightly, apologetically.

“I’m sorry ma’am. But, the council believes you should be conducting these affairs from a more secure location.” the other woman said.

“I don’t give a damn what the council says I should be doing. They don’t dictate my actions, I do. All they do is take care of security. If I want to do the pre-flight-” the woman said, cutting herself off as she turned to look at another one of the consoles, catching sight of Link.

She froze for a moment, then immediately resumed her work. It was Roslin.

“Ma’am,” Link said respectfully, “Didn’t know you were doing our pre-flight.”

“If I want to do the pre-flight for a mission I’m sending my men out on, I’m gonna do the pre-flight,” she said, ignoring what the young man had said in order to complete her thought then gave him a nod, “Lieutenant. You’re early.”

“First Minister. I’m sorry if I shouldn’t be here… just… anxious I suppose.” Link said.

“I like early. Means you’re not too scared to dive in. You can make yourself useful by checking the port nacelle for obstructions. I’m gonna fire it up for a test run.” Roslin said.

He did as he was told. As he walked around to carry out her order, he passed the other lady, dressed in a suit similar to the minister’s though it hugged very close to her slender frame. She had hair of pure white. A single lock of healthy thickness draped down over her face. It didn’t obscure her vision, but it did provide for an interesting look that seemed to mesh well with her thin figure. In spite of an appearance that suggested only mild physical strength or ability, there was something about her that commanded respect. He passed the pale-haired without getting a terribly good look at her. She had her head turned away as she spoke through an earpiece she held a hand to. The armored man moved right to the nacelle, removing the protective covering as requested.

“That should do it, you’re clear for your test.” Link said.

Roslin entered the commands into the console in front of her. A whine came from the engine housed inside the nacelle Link had only just uncovered. It didn’t spin up completely, only enough to warm the housing slightly.

“Good, that’s good. That’s the last of it, everything checks out.” the woman in the cockpit said.

The other lady lowered her hand and turned towards the Minister.

“Ma’am, we cannot wait any longer. We can trust the rest of the ground crew to finish the preparations.” the pale-haired woman said.

Quickly, she glanced back at Link, lowering her gaze almost immediately. In that moment, the Lieutenant saw something. His expression hardened and he rushed the woman, taking her by the collar of her coat. With a firm shove, he slammed her back against the fuselage of the dropship. In a flash, a hand was wrapped around her neck to hold her in place.

“Who are you!? Who do you work for!?” Link roared in anger.

The woman was startled by the sudden assault, as was Roslin.

“Lieutenant! What the hell do you think you’re doing!?” the minister shouted angrily.

“She’s one of them!” Link fired back.

He lifted his free arm, commanding it to produce a weapon of some sort, he didn’t care which. The handle of a pistol slid into his grasp, primed to fire. The barrel was brought to the woman’s face.

“I don’t know what you are talking about Lieutenant… but you need to put the weapon down before you get hurt.” the pale-haired woman said.

Her voice was even. The unusual accent was difficult for the young man to place. What he did take note of was the fact that she did not seem to react the way he thought she ought to. She was calm, steady, in command of her emotions. That created a powerful sense in the young man telling him he should fear this woman.

“Shut up!” Link shouted and jammed the woman against the dropship again, “You’re in no position to make threats! Now answer my question! Who do you work for!?”

“She works for me, Lieutenant! Now stand down!” Roslin shouted as she hopped out of the cockpit, aiming to put herself between Link and the woman he held in place.

“No! She’s one of them!” Link said through gritted teeth as he pressed the barrel of his gun into the white-haired woman’s cheek, forcing her to turn her head and reveal the mark he found there, “She’s got the same symbol on her face as the guy I chased down! The guy that tried to take Lilly! She’s working with them!”

“If you do not put the gun away, I will be forced to harm you.” the pinned woman said, just as even as before.

It was odd how calm the supposed conspirator was in spite of the situation.

“I’d listen to her, Lieutenant,” Roslin said, taking her cue from the white-haired lady to speak more calmly, “Now let go of her. That is an order.”

Link wasn’t interested in orders. He was sure he was right.

“You really think you can hurt me? In this? You’re not even armed!” he shouted, overcome with arrogance.

That was as far as he got. His display suddenly went dark, distracting him momentarily. Then it happened. His shoulder seared angrily, silently screaming at him as his arm was quite suddenly twisted. The gun fell from his hand, dangling on a thin chain that connected it to his suit. It retracted and vanished quickly back into its compartment. A firm shove spun him about and pushed him onto his knees as the twisted arm was hoisted up over him. In the space of roughly three seconds, he had been completely incapacitated. Even his suit had betrayed him, shutting down for some reason.

“I warned you, hero. I do not take personal attacks kindly. Now explain yourself.” the thin woman said.

Even when she had the upper hand, she was remarkably calm. It unnerved the lieutenant, but not enough to silence him.

“That mark on your cheek–the eye with the tear drop–the wizard I chased down a few weeks ago. He had the same symbol on his forehead.” Link said through grunts of discomfort.

Roslin approached and gestured for the woman to release the armored man. She did so, giving him a light shove to push him away. Even without power, Link was able to move with some degree of ease. He reasoned that whatever had caused it to shut down must have locked the whole system into manual control just before it lost power. He stood and held his left shoulder, wincing as he tried to massage the soreness out of it. The doctor wasn’t kidding about not being in top shape.

“He had this symbol on his forehead?” Rosline asked, pointing to her companion’s cheek, “Why didn’t you include that in your report?”

“It didn’t seem important,” the lieutenant answered, “I thought it was just some gang symbol. I thought I knew where it was from but I couldn’t think of it. What the hell is going on here?”

The minister sighed and looked to the woman, giving her the go-ahead to provide him with details. The surprisingly strong–and apparently fearless–lady brought both of her hands together in a gesture as if to pray and bowed forward slightly.

“My name is Impa. I am a member of a tribe called the Sheikah. Our people have had but one singular duty throughout our history; to protect the royal family. As the years passed, we began to include other important figures within our protection. I was charged by Her Majesty, Zelda herself, to be First Minister Roslin’s personal guard,” the formidable woman explained before lifting a hand to gesture to the mark on her cheek, “You say you saw this mark on the wizard’s forehead?”

“Yeah… what of it?” Link asked, still feeling rather embarrassed by how easily he had been neutralized.

“Only the Sheikah use this symbol. It is how we identify ourselves.” Impa said.

Link glowered and turned towards the woman fully, still holding his shoulder.

“Well then I’d say you’ve got a problem because one of your people’s turned dark side on you.” he said.

“That is not possible.” Impa replied flatly.

“Well I’m here to tell you that it is! I saw it! I smelled the paint! I saw the smudges! This guy was sweating so much I could have wiped it off his face!” the lieutenant shouted in frustration.

He didn’t like having what he saw with his own eyes questioned. There was some concern that the government had made a habit of gaslighting like that. Impa sighed and turned her painted cheek towards him, running a finger across it to show that the symbol would not smear.

“We do not simply paint it on,” the thin lady said, “When every Sheikah comes of age and is ready to take on their duty to the kingdom, they receive this tattoo. If you look closely, you can even see the person’s true name concealed within the design, but only if you can read ancient Hylian. The man you fought, he only painted it on his forehead. He was not Sheikah.”

The accent was starting to make sense now, as was the explanation of the mark. Link was starting to recall stories of them, these Sheikah. No wonder she was so strong. Their training and fighting skills were legendary. He used to dream of learning from their masters.

“Okay… so let’s say he’s not one of your people. Why would he paint himself up to pass as one of you?” the lieutenant asked.

Roslin stepped in, glowering as she came to a somewhat dark revelation.

“It’s actually pretty damn clever of them. They’re playing off the ignorance of the masses. You show that symbol to the public, they won’t know what it means, not in this day and age. The Sheikah go to great lengths to keep themselves concealed, even when they’re tasked with protecting a high profile asset. The public won’t know the intricacies, the purpose behind it. They’ll simply associate that symbol with evil thanks to Mr. Wizard. In one easy stroke, you’ve managed to turn the public against the royal house’s personal guard. Just another ingredient in the recipe for chaos,” the minster explained, “You should have told us about the mark sooner.”

“I’m sorry First Minister… I honestly didn’t think it was worth mentioning.” Link said apologetically.

“Everything matters. Nothing is trivial. Your next report had better be as thorough as you can manage. Impa, you may want to turn his suit back on.” Roslin said.

“Of course.” the slender woman said as she approached the sluggish lieutenant, unable to move as easily while his suit’s reactor was offline.

She took his arm, the one she had twisted about and helped him up. Almost immediately, his systems came back online as if a switch had been thrown. It mystified Link, but he didn’t bother asking. He probably wouldn’t get an answer beyond ‘it’s classified’ or ‘practice’.

“Thanks… kinda hard to do my job with a suit that won’t turn on.” Link said, his best attempt at extending an olive branch while his ego was still bruised.

“It is my understanding Sergeant Nelson was rather rough on you, injured your shoulder. Does it still hurt?” Impa asked.

“Yeah… but then that’s why you picked that arm to subdue me, isn’t it?” the lieutenant asked.

Impa offered an amused smile. She was impressed he had deduced her tactic.

“Yes, that is correct. Remove your glove.” she said.

Glove wasn’t quite the correct term, but gauntlet didn’t sound entirely accurate either. It got the point across though.

“Why? It’s my shoulder that hurts, not my hand.” Link said.

“I realize, Lieutenant. Please, remove your glove.” Impa replied.

She continued to hold his forearm, waiting patiently for him to comply. When he did, the armored skin surrounding his hand retreated, providing him with the dexterity a naked palm and digits possessed over a covered set. Impa moved her hands down to the young man’s palm, pressing her thumbs against the back just on either side of the triangular mark.

“Um… mind if I ask what you’re doing?” Link inquired.

“This may startle you. Remain calm.” Impa answered.

“What might startl-” Link tried to ask.

He silenced himself as light began to shine from the birthmark. The three triangles glowed and a strange tone accompanied the light.

“You have yet to learn what this gift can do. Survive your mission and Miss Roslin will no doubt provide you with instruction to utilize your power.” the thin woman said.

She pressed her thumbs against his hand more firmly, not painfully so, but the pressure was quite strong. The light shone more brilliantly, eclipsing his hand completely. Warmth began seep out of his palm and along his wrist, spreading quickly through his arm. The ache in his shoulder became like a single screaming voice being carried off in the distance until it was drowned out completely by the heavenly choir that replaced it. When the pain was gone, the light faded and Impa slid the whole of one her hands over the back of his palm.

Link was utterly speechless. He simply stared down at the hand being held by Roslin’s bodyguard.

“For now, that will have to do. Do not squander it. It is a precious thing to be used with discretion.” Impa said.

The lieutenant stood completely dumbfound. His shoulder was as good as new and all thanks to that blasted triangle on his hand he had scorned almost all his life. He had no idea it could do that. What was more, it was as though there was a door in his mind. It had been opened the night of the incident when he lit up the Faron Skyline. When Impa activated it again, he sensed that door open once more. This time, he was more conscious of it. If only he could step through. Maybe some of the answers he sought were on the other side.

“How… how did you make it do that?” Link asked in awe.

Impa released his hand and stepped back, bowing slightly as if he afforded the same level of respect as the Potentate or the First Minister. It made him uncomfortable.

“In time, you will learn.” the woman said.

She was keeping rather tight lipped about it and that only added to Link’s frustration. He couldn’t get too mad, though. He figured whatever this was would take time to explain, and he only had so much before he was to depart for his mission.

“The night I chased down the wizard, it hurt. It burned like hell, in fact. But not this time. Why did it hurt then and not now?” the young man asked.

Roslin stepped in to field that question. Impa would only confuse him with the manner in which her explanations were formed.

“Think of it like a geiger counter. The closer it gets to something bad, the more it’s going to protest, until you learn to use it. If a situation requires true courage, the Triforce piece you hold will let you know. Don’t worry about it. We’ll teach you what you need to know in time. You’re wheels-up in ten minutes. Impa, better give him he’s ‘mission-specific package’.” the minister said.

“Yes ma’am.” the white-haired woman said.

She pulled back the right sleeve of her coat, revealing a bracelet hanging comfortably from her wrist. A light tap with her thumb brought forth a ring of holographic imagery. It was a quantum storage management system, not unlike what Link’s suit was equipped with, only far more sophisticated. Not to mention considerably smaller and better disguised.

Impa spun the ring until she reached the object she wished to select, tapping its icon. A chime sounded to confirm her selection and she moved to hold out both hands. A point of light formed between her arms, growing taller and deeper before suddenly stretching out in each direction, creating a cylinder of light, tapered at both ends. The shape it took shrank and gained definition, not unlike plastic shrink wrap around a complex product. As it altered its configuration, the light dimmed to reveal something far more tangible than just a beam of light.

In the woman’s hands rest a sword; simple design, without any ornate decoration, and clearly unused. The blade itself was smooth and featureless save for a maker’s mark very near the guard, a sign of the artisan who had made it.

“Link, this is a very special weapon. Only a handful of these are ever made and each one is meant for a specific person. It’s a symbol of your service to the kingdom, to Her Majesty, Zelda. It was meant for your brother before his untimely death. I think he would want you to have it.” Roslin explained.

The man gazed at the blade in disbelief. Slowly, he lifted his hand to take the gift, feeling the grip in his fingers. The texture of its covering felt comfortable against his palm. It was well balanced, perfect weight for its size, and quite sharp from what he could tell. Immediately, the armor returned around his hand, taking hold of the sword as well. Without being commanded to, the blade was integrated it into his suit. Its presence registered on a display popping up as the two devices married.

“It’s… it’s beautiful, but what is it doing?” Link asked.

“It’s connecting to your armor. It’s not just a sharp piece of metal you can hack away with. It’s a weapon, an extension of yourself. It’s also more than just a sword.” Roslin said.

She reached out and gently squeezed the stone at the end of the pummel. The blade split in half down its length and slid apart. The whole of the weapon removed itself from Link’s hand, brought up along the back of his forearm where it locked itself into place. An unearthly glow of pale cyan surrounded the two halves of the blade.

“Whoa… I don’t remember any of the heroes having a sword that can do that.” Link said in awe.

“It’s also an energy rifle. That’s where it will stay until your mission is complete. You operator will fill you in on how it works. Take care of it. You’re carrying a piece of Colin with you.” Roslin said.

Link nodded, gazing at the blade affixed to his arm. He could not bring himself to speak on the matter.

“First Minister, didn’t expect you’d be seeing us off.” said a new voice.

It was Euless, walking ahead of the other three members of the unit. They were all suited up just like Link, ready to depart.

“I’m running the op,” Roslin replied, “I figured I might as well be present to wish you all good hunting personally.”

She received a salute for her troubles, a gesture she returned respectfully.

“We’ll make you proud, ma’am–and we’ll make sure the lieutenant comes back in once piece. I’m not in the business of losing members of my team.” Euless said.

“I know you will. Now get aboard. I want this bird off the ground as soon as possible.” Roslin ordered.

Euless turned to look at the four troops under his command.

“You heard the lady! This ain’t a pleasure cruise, we got a job to do! Let’s go!” the commander barked.

The other three offered their own respective confirmations, climbing aboard eagerly. Euless brought his gaze to rest on the newcomer, stepping in closer and lifting the young man’s arm sporting the new sword.

“Lieutenant Link reporting for duty, sir.” the younger man said.

Euless regarded him silently for a moment, then lifted his eyes from the blade to meet the rookie’s gaze.

“That’s a fine blade you’ve got there, soldier. Better put it away so you don’t ding it up in flight.” the commander said.

“I… I’m not entirely sure how to-” Link started to say.

“I got it!” Nadia cried out through the radio.

She quickly took command of the lieutenant’s suit remotely. The blade’s two halves reconnected and the whole apparatus seemed to retract into his forearm, showing only a portion of the hilt as if it were a badge of office.

“Okay, I’m not going to lie,” the lieutenant said, “That’s pretty damn cool.”

“Yeah it is!” Nadia replied, “You’re good to go Link. And next time, don’t try to attack Impa. Freaks me out when I lose connection.”

Euless raised an eyebrow.

“You attacked Impa?”

“It was just a misunderstanding!” Link explained quickly then averted his gaze

His cheeks reddened with embarrassment. It seemed everyone knew how bad an idea it was but him.

“I’m sure it was,” Euless said, “Otherwise you wouldn’t be standing here. You’d either be back in the infirmary or on a slab waiting for autopsy. Get aboard, Lieutenant.”

Link nodded, doing as he was told. He didn’t like the feeling that just about anyone around him could lay him out with the greatest of ease. It made him question his worth for one thing. It made him feel like he was back in high school for another.

“Ooo, you got one of the special ones!” Bruno said gleefully as he grabbed the young man’s arm, yanking it over to give himself a better view of the hilt embedded in the armor, “They don’t give these out to just anyone! The Minister must really like you.”

He waggled his eyebrows, offering the Lieutenant a coy wink. The arm was pulled back by its owner as they all began to strap in, the engines outside powering up as the pilot and co-pilot prepared to get underway.

“It was meant for my brother. He’s dead. So they gave it to me.” Link said, trying not to sound harsh.

Bruno’s jocular mood was suddenly dulled by the somber nature of how the blade came to its owner.

“Oh… that’s right, you’re Colin’s brother. I’m sorry man. I didn’t mean any disrespect.” the heavy-built man said.

“It’s okay. I’m kinda used to it at this point. Lowest guy on the totem pole and all.” Link replied.

Oddly enough, that seemed to bring back the larger fellow’s jovial attitude. He elbowed him lightly in the flank.

“Oh boy, you really have no idea do you?” Bruno asked with a snicker, “Lowest man on the totem pole my ass! You just watch kid, you’ll see. They got great things in store for you. You just don’t do anything stupid and we’ll help you stay alive. In the footsteps of Gustaf, am I right?”

Link paused as he attached his helmet, keeping the faceplate open for the time being.

“You know about Gustaf?” he asked.

“Sure do. Hard to be a member of his order and not know the legend.” Bruno answered.

The Order of Gustaf. That was a new one on Link. He knew the legends better than most of his peers, but he didn’t think the TSDF took it that seriously. Maybe Bruno was right. Great things were to come. But usually, ‘great’ was closely followed with ‘terrible’. He took some comfort in the fact that none of the legends ever spoke of the hero becoming corrupted for falling from grace, but then if that had happened, there wouldn’t be any reason to call the fallen a hero. That worried Link the instant it occurred to him.

The dropship’s doors slid closed, melding into the fuselage, and the whole vessel lifted off. Over his radio, Link could hear Nadia explaining how the sword functioned, its specs and limits, the whole nine yards. He tried to listen but he quickly found she had a slightly nasty habit of talking just a little too quickly. He sighed, sealing up his helmet, hoping that would help isolate him while she talked. He would need to learn how to use everything on him if he was going to be of any real use.

He couldn’t opt out, even if he wanted to. There was no turning back now.

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