Chapter 14 – Bones and Bombs

Chapter List – – – Previous Chapter

All manner of unsettling debris lay strewn through the hall–desiccated corpses, bones, mangled armor, and shattered weapons. Whatever happened here, it was horribly violent and the loss of life was terribly great. It set everyone on edge as they approached the mouth of the tunnel, finding the chamber ahead to open up into quite a large space. As Link passed the threshold, just a meter or so ahead of the rest of his group, the sound of metal striking stone rang out loudly. He whipped around to find the exit had been blocked off. There–between him and his unit–stood a rusted yet still extremely sturdy portcullis.

“Link!” Euless shouted in alarm.

His cry of dismay was just too late to be of any use. Immediately, he and the others began trying to lift the cursed barrier, fearful their new recruit had just walked into a trap. Link kicked himself for not paying more careful attention. He had been foolish and cocky, neither of which would be suffered in a place like this.

“You can’t open it that way. There’s a switch or a weight keeping it pinned. These old temples were notorious for those things. See if you can cut through it.” the lone soldier said as he looked through the portcullis at his unit.

He was oddly calm in spite of his self-admonishment. There wasn’t much time to scold himself. He was already in the trap, so he needed to be alert for whatever might be waiting for him. To that end, he turned his attention back to the center of the room, already expecting something unpleasant and eager to punish trespassers. In the center stood a brilliant, gleaming chest of royal green laced with gold. An unearthly light radiated out from the vessel. It rest atop a stone pedestal carved with intricate, ancient writing.

“Link! Keep your distance! Let us secure an exit before you do anything!” Euless shouted the instant he spotted the chest.

He was starting to get the idea and follow his new Lieutenant. All those old stories he heard as a kid were starting to make sense. It didn’t hurt that Link had given them excellent intelligence on the temple thus far, all based on ancient lore. It only made sense to start thinking more like the supposed hero.

“There’s something written here. I want to see what it says,” Link replied as he leaned in carefully while keeping a healthy distance, certain not to make contact unless it was on purpose, “It’s ancient Hylian. Command, do you have a translation for this?”

Roslin ordered her people into action again.

“Stand by, the linguistic database is processing it. Your connection is going out. Can you compensate?” the woman asked.

“It’s as clean as it’s gonna get, command.” answered one of her subordinates.

Roslin frowned, watching as their video feed faded until it finally dropped out completely. At least they still had audio. She paused as the results came back, sending them to his visor as she read them aloud for the entire team to hear.

“Here lies a piece of the gods. Madness awaits any who draw near. Open this chest and ye shall be pursued by a great evil and death itself,” the Minister recited, taking a slightly dower tone after letting it hang in the air for a moment, “Sounds like they knew what they were talking about.”

“Or at least they knew enough to keep it tightly sealed away.” the young man replied as he stood back up.

The Lieutenant only made it two steps back before his sensors pinged in his ears, forcing him to freeze in place instantly. He turned to look back at the others still straining to break through the portcullis. They couldn’t have set off his proximity alarm, the reading was coming from somewhere on his side of the barrier.

There was something in the room with him.

“Command, I’m getting a reading on my hostile indicator. Can you confirm?” Link asked.

The First Minister frowned, “Confirmed. Can’t localize the exact source but it’s definitely in there with you. Advise you go weapons hot. What do you see?”

Link drew his bow again, not the weapon Roslin had hoped he would select but it would have to do. It had proven effective so far. The sound of something hollow scraping slowly along the floor sounded loud enough to be heard, drawing the Lieutenant’s attention away from the exit. It seemed to be coming from everywhere around him. He looked to the floor and his heart stopped. The bones strewn about were rattling. Some were actually moving!

“Guys… how long on the portcullis?” Link asked, trying his best to steady his nerves.

“Two minutes! We need just two minutes!” Euless shouted, spotting the same motion along the floor.

“I don’t think I have that long.” Link replied.

He began to notice a pattern to the movement. The animated remains were drawing together into a single point, a place he moved away from, arrow drawn and taking aim at what might emerge. As the collection of bones massed together, they began to flip upward, assembling into a single form. Link watched in horror as a monstrous skeleton rose out of the pile, adorned with only scant armor, brandishing two large, chipped and rusty blades. It glared at him with hate-filled eyes of a hollow purple crimson.

He knew this evil all too well, and they were notorious in the stories of old for being exceptionally difficult to kill. Only the most skilled of swordsmen ever could survive an encounter with such a monster.

“Guys! Pick up the pace!” Link shouted.

Arrows would probably be useless. The Lieutenant stowed the bow and commanded his suit to draw his sword. As if concealed by an invisible sheath, the blade ushered forth from nothingness along the back of his left forearm. His right arm saw its protective plating lift off and expand outward to form the shield he would likely need, a circular, curved shell matching his suit’s coloration. With a skillful flick of his wrist, he detached the blade from the suit with an upward pop, snatching it by the grip out of the air. He was ready. So was his opponent.

The horror before him approached, opening its jaws as if gleeful at the prospect of combat. It slashed its swords at the Lieutenant carelessly, throwing itself off balance each time, yet recovering as if firmly planted on the floor. Link guarded against the blows, managing to push them off into another direction harmlessly, but it still startled him. What power this thing had! The sound of one of the bars of the portcullis snapping free rang out, the first of at least four they would need to remove. It took that long to get just one of them! What was that thing made of!? Link had his work cut out for him if he had to last for three more bars.

The monster swung its blades again, this time biting only the air before clanging noisily to the ground. Its target had backed away. Parry with distance, Link thought. This wasn’t the typical foe the Lieutenant was used to. He wasn’t calculating his strikes. He was pure offensive, and an unintelligent one at that. Those often were among the more dangerous. Link danced about, dodging and leaning to keep from being struck, hoping to afford his shield as little damage as possible. When he felt he had an opening, he took it. His own sword gleamed in the eerie light as it carved through the space between them only to be met with his opponent’s blade. It could block just as easily as it could attack. The skeleton swung its defending sword harshly against Link’s, sending him reeling before falling on his back. In seconds, the ghoul was upon him, both arms raised high to bring them down with all its might.

The sound of refined alloy skewering bone rung out as Link sank his sword through the skeleton’s chest. The bare-skulled creature tilted its head and lifted its arms again, seemingly unfazed by the blow. In a mild panic, Link tugged hard to remove his sword, needing it to defend himself. It refused to budge, stuck quite well where it had been lodged. The tug shook the undead beast, startling it and giving it pause for a moment. When it attempted to reset for its killing stroke again, Link tugged hard once more, still finding no yield in the grip on his sword. He shook the weapon violently to try and free it, keeping his foe occupied and unable to strike. Eventually, the Lieutenant stopped, opting for a different strategy. Again the skeleton prepared for the fatal blow, unkempt blades practically growling and barking for the young man’s flesh.

Link pulled again, this time trying to shove the hilt up over his own head. The anchorage gave him purchase and he slid forward between the skeleton’s legs, dragging him downward as he skidded out of harm’s way. The satisfying sound of bone snapping and metal clanging against stone marked the young man’s successful escape. He flipped over onto his stomach and shoved himself up onto his feet, wheeling about to find his enemy bent into a very odd angle. The skeleton wobbled a bit before managing to straighten itself out, hissing somehow at the infuriating target.

“Guys! Any time now would be great!” Link shouted over his shoulder without taking his eyes off the boney monster.

They had finished the second bar and were well through the third.

“Just a bit more! Hang on!” shouted one of them, Link was too distracted to tell which.

The fight continued with the Lieutenant using all his acrobatic skill to avoid being injured. He was tiring quickly. The skeleton was not. He kept his distance, trying to find some means of besting the nightmarish thing.

“Command, I could really use a tactical analysis about now!” Link shouted, having forgotten for a moment that he still had an audio link.

Nadia spoke up, frustrated with how difficult it was to keep his connection up and stable.

“We’re still scanning. Poor signal’s making it difficult to get any data through,” she explained, “Prelim results show it’s being held together by some kind of energy field we’ve never detected before. If you break one of its bones, it just picks up another one to replace it. We’re looking over the scans of the room to see which ones it doesn’t have many of left. In the meantime, keep trying to hit its chest. We saw a five percent drop in the energy field’s cohesion when you stabbed it. Recommend an assault from behind.”

“Understood… if I can hit there again without getting knocked down first!” Link replied.

Parrying with distance had been helpful, but only to a certain extent. He had put too much distance between himself and the skeleton. It ignored the team on the verge of breaking through and leapt across the chamber, jaws agape, eyes burning. Link rolled forward just before it landed, twirling about as he stood. The spin brought his arm out, slashing at his foe. His sword struck with an encouraging snap. The back of the beast had been broken. It slumped for a moment, writhing angrily as it tried to reassemble itself. Link took the opportunity to rain his assault down upon the monster. Bones snapped and shattered as cries of rage escaped the fleshless warrior. Even as he slashed wildly, more bones drew together to replace the broken ones. A mighty swing of the skeleton’s arm surprised the Lieutenant and sent him flying backwards. It came with the bonus prize of a sharp pain in his stomach, as if someone had hit him with a battering ram. Link lay on his back, coughing, the wind knocked out of him, desperately trying to recover enough breath to get back into the fight.

The skeleton approached again, lifting its arms skyward to end the battle. With every shred of strength he had in him, Link thrust his sword upward, this time not aiming for the chest, but the skull. The young man grit his teeth and grunted loudly as the finely honed blade punched through the monster’s mouth and out the back of its head. A powerful slash to one side saw his blade cleave through one of the skeleton’s arms, slinging the now disembodied skull across the room. The remaining body stumbled about in confusion, searching for its head. Link climbed back to his feet and stumbled over to the portcullis, now only one bar away from freedom.

“Link! There’s only one intact skull in the room!” Roslin barked through the radio, “Destroy it!”

By now, the head was skittering across the floor as if magnetically drawn to its body.

“Command, how deep are we?” Link asked as he began formulating a plan.

“More than sixty meters down.” his operator replied.

“Good.” the Lieutenant said in a rather perfunctory tone.

He returned his sword to its holding place, the blade vanishing just as it had appeared. He drew his bow again, bringing it forth from the insubstantial void where much of his weaponry was stowed. As it materialized, Link cycled through a menu in his visor. Once ready, he knocked an arrow. This one looked different. There was a cluster of black cylinders each no larger than a person’s finger strapped around the shaft near the head. Link took careful aim, watching as the skeleton reassembled itself, the head finally rolling up its form and attaching. The horrible light returned to its eyes as it came back to life, hissing angrily.

Link closed one of his eyes to perfect his aim and called out to his team, and to those listening back at base.

“Fire in the hole.”

The arrow was loosed and it sailed across the room. The carefully machined point at the end of the projectile cracked the center of the skull, splitting it between its eyes. As soon as the black cylinders made contact, the room shook and a deafening explosion shattered the beast. Shards of bone flew free from what had once been a powerful adversary. It didn’t attempt to get back up again. The spell was broken.

Link sighed in relief, putting his bow away again. The final bar snapped free and the group piled into the room, weapons drawn, expecting more of a fight. Thankfully, the blast was small enough that it wouldn’t draw any unwanted attention. Euless ordered the group to stand down as they approached the victorious soldier.

“Impressive, Lieutenant, but a little less subtle than I was hoping for,” he said, “Maybe next time go a little lighter on the charges?”

“Sorry sir,” Link answered, “Wasn’t sure how much would be enough.”

Herne slapped the young soldier on the back in congratulations, seeming to be in much higher spirits than before.

“Impressive!? That was amazing! We got a regular monster slayer here!”

The Commander rolled his eyes lightly as the other two joined in with their praise, jostling Link about as if he’d just run the winning play of the big game.

“Alright, alright that’s enough of that. We came here to do a job. We can finally get the damn shard and get the hell out. Job’s not done yet,” Euless commanded, making the group quiet down and get back into ‘work mode’, then he gave Link a nudge, “You’re the hero Roslin’s been talking about. Only seems right that you should be the one to take the shard.”

The younger man nodded softly, a little more at ease feeling like he was part of the unit now. He crossed the room to the chest, opening it carefully. He’d heard plenty of stories about these things being booby-trapped. When it was clear there wasn’t any explosive or pressurized poison gas waiting to unleash itself on them, he peered in and found the very golden shard they had worked so hard to find resting atop a red velvet cushion. Delicately, Link took the lump of precious metal and stowed it in a small containment vessel he had been provided. As soon as it was sealed, his suit took over, drawing the container inward and locking it away under the plating of his chest. They would have to tear his armor off to get at it.

“Command, mission accomplished, we are in possession of the shard. We’re making our exit now,” Euless reported, then paused for confirmation, frowning when nothing came through on the radio, “Command? Do you copy?”

“Com’s dead. I’m not getting anything, not even background chatter,” Saito said as she jostled her helmet about, hoping it might just have been a glitch, “There must be some sort of dampening field in here.”

“Link was able to contact command, even download a weapons kit. If you’re right, then it was just brought online. Let’s move people.” Euless said, turning to lead the unit out.

His command was followed with enthusiasm. All five passed back through the opened portcullis, reaching the chamber at the other end of the corridor in short order. Something seemed different though.

“Commander,” Herne said, sounding confused as he stopped while the others passed, “Were there this many bodies here before?”

He pointed to the stacks of corpses lining the collapsed entrances. That caught everyone’s attention, Link’s especially. There were indeed more. And they were moving. The hair on the back of the Lieutenant’s neck stood on end almost immediately. He knew all too well what they were facing off against, and it was one of his least favorite stories.

“They’re Re-Dead! Don’t let them touch you! We need to move! Now!” he shouted.

Just as Link urged his commanding officer to pick up the pace, the whole room shook. A powerful blast some distance away sent tremors through the whole structure. Small chunks of the ceiling fell to the ground as dust came raining down everywhere. Debris around the collapsed halls crumbled and rolled away, offering a small gap at the top of each opening. That had been their exit plan upstairs. The trap had been sprung.

“That’s our queue! Evac! Double time!” Euless bellowed.

The team turned and focused their attention on running for the exit. As they began to enter the trench, the reanimated corpses of the fallen soldiers began to spill in slowly. They fell gracelessly and shambled to their feet, reaching out towards the fleeing troops.

“Weapons free! Clear a path! Take them out!” the Commander ordered.

Immediately a hail of gunfire was unleashed, cutting down the ‘Re-dead’ as Link had labeled them. They seemed to be coming from everywhere. They reached the corridor beyond the trench and ducked inside, finding it to be no more hospitable than the previous room. With the sentries waiting on the other side, they would have to time their movements.

They split into two groups; Herne, Bruno, and Saito clearing the way while Link and Euless tried to secure the path behind them. As the sentries spun about, the first group raced through and took up a defensive position out of their range. Link and Euless waited for their turn.

“Commander! The secondary stairwell is gone! The force charges are still in play!” Bruno shouted.

Euless fired frantically into the growing horde behind them, dragging the Lieutenant with him when the time came.

“We might still be able to take them by surprise! Make for the exit! Cut down anything that gets in your way!” the Commander roared.

As the two charged past the sentries, the two crimson eyes came to life and began firing on the lurching corpses. It was a good thing they hadn’t destroyed them after all. It bought the team a chance to catch their breath.

“That’s not gonna hold them for long,” Saito said and pointed deeper into the hall, “There’s gotta be hundreds of’em! Where the hell did they all come from!? Why now!? Why didn’t they wake up when we passed earlier!?”

“Do I look like a horror movie expert!?” Bruno shot back as he took up aim along one of the walls, watching carefully for movement along the other collapsed entryways.

“Shut up! Everyone!” Euless barked, “Link… you got any thoughts on these things?”

The Commander took a few shots at the luckier monsters that had managed to get past the sentries with only minor wounds, like a missing limb. Link frowned as he struggled to keep calm. His heart was pounding. He’d heard of such creatures in the old stories, but they were always vague on the method of reanimation. The young man struggled for a moment, pausing as he let that word roll around in his mind. Reanimation. They had been dead and they were brought back. The warning on the pedestal. He immediately looked to his chest, resting a hand over where the canister was stowed. It made sense.

“It’s got to be the shard!” Link cried, “It has resurrective power! It’s why the cult is so eager to get it! To bring Ganondorf back to life! It’s bringing the dead guards back too!”

That was rather unsettling news, especially considering what everyone else knew of the ‘golden power’.

“It’s supposed to be a piece of the Triforce! How the hell can something made by the goddesses make zombies!?” Bruno shouted, starting to sound rather shaken up.

He had plenty reason to be on edge. They had found themselves locked into a situation none of them were prepared for.

“Maybe because it’s shattered, it’s not functioning properly,” Link explained, grasping at whatever reasoning he could conjure, “It just turns the dead into… those things! When all the shards are put back together, it should work the way it’s supposed to! We need to get out of here before it wakes more of them!”

Herne shouted insults at the decayed walkers, launching a grenade into their midst deep in the hallway. He swore as he realized that might have been a bad idea the instant it left his palm. The grenade detonated, taking a large group of the hideous, nightmarish things down. The team sighed collectively in relief as the ceiling held rather than caving in on them.

“We can’t leave these things! We need to seal the place up! If these bastards get out, it’ll be like a plague!” the burly fellow shouted, readying a second grenade, eager to press his luck.

Euless nodded, “Agreed. Everyone, we are out of here in T minus five minutes.”

He pulled something from his waistline and tapped it a few times before gently lobbing it into the air. Immediately the object began to hover and rose high into the chamber, well out of the reach of any ordinary person. A loud beep signaled the start of a timer.

“Boss,” Saito said gently as she watched her Commander work, “Whatcha doin’ there?”

“I’m engaging wildfire protocol! Let’s move! In five minutes this temple is gonna be a tomb!” Euless shouted.

Everyone but Link recognized the charge instantly. He stared at it briefly trying to place it before he was dragged away.

“C’mon kid! You don’t wanna get a nuclear suntan!” Herne shouted, practically putting a shoulder into the Lieutenant’s stomach to push him along.

The team rushed up the stairwell they had taken, setting off the charges waiting for them as they reached the halfway point. Once daylight shined forth, they raced through the bubbles holding the hallway open. The chamber beyond was empty save a single figure, cloaked, and smiling maniacally.

“Get down!” Herne roared, throwing Link to the ground.

His warning was heeded, but just barely too late. The cultist spread his hands wide apart and the first three troops were thrown aside, leaving Euless between the cloaked man and Link. The Commander brought his weapon to bear on the pale, cackling man, ready to end him. He never got the chance. A black-clawed hand swiped at the end of his gun, knocking it away before dragging Euless to the ground. Cries of agony filled the room as the other three–still planted on their backs–were assaulted by the same raking fingers.

Link recognized them from his last night as a police officer. The puppets all thrashed about wildly, ripping away at the armor protecting their targets. How they were able to so easily cleave through it was terrifying. Another rose up from the ground with that same unchanging, unsettling smile, setting its sights on the Lieutenant climbing to his feet. It almost instantly shattered into a cloud of sparks.

The young man stood his ground, bow drawn, arm pulled back having just loosed an arrow. There were no explosives attached this time. The devastation he caused startled the Lieutenant. He had no idea what had caused such a reaction, until he saw the back of his hand glowing. It had never stopped. The cultist stared in shock. No one had ever so utterly decimated one of his puppets. His expression quickly changed to one of rage, lifting his arms to summon more of his minions. Link drew another arrow and knocked it, drawing it back and taking careful aim.

As he held his fire, the door in his head opened and something seeped through. The triangle on the back of his hand shined all the brighter. Suddenly, holding the string back didn’t feel quite so difficult. Even the arrow seemed to glow. He loosed his shot and it sailed gracefully through the air, striking home. The cultist fell backwards flat on his back, the arrow protruding from his forehead. Strong burn marks surrounded the shaft where it punctured the man’s skull. A pale, eerie flame spread across him, consuming his body. With the puppeteer gone, his puppets collapsed and melted away into the shadows again. But the damage had already been done.

The rest of Link’s team lay on the ground, groaning in pain. He rushed to the Commander’s side and began trying to drag him to his feet. Chunks of his armor were simply gone, ripped from the suit, exposing only the layer of cloth covering his body. Even that had not weathered the storm well. Slash marks were torn through the dark material as crimson seeped through. It was a miracle the claws had not gone any deeper.

“Commander! Can you hear me!?” Link shouted.

“Yeah… I can hear you,” He groaned as he was moved, wincing in pain, “Don’t worry about me. It’s mostly superficial. Help the others.”

Link dragged Euless over to the wall and sat him up, noticing a chunk of his helmet gone and a rather nasty gash over one of his eyes. Following orders, the Lieutenant moved to check on the rest of his team. Bruno and Saito were similarly afflicted, their armor in no condition to be used in combat, cuts and scrapes abound, but largely no worse for the wear. Herne was not so lucky. The hole in his shoulder-plate from earlier served as an entry for the monsters to tear into him. His shoulder looked as though it was about to fall completely apart and he was bleeding heavily. His other injuries didn’t help matters, even as light as they were.

“Commander, Herne’s seriously wounded. I don’t think he can move on his own.” Link said.

Euless grunted and tried to force himself to stand, scraping the back of his armor along the stone wall. He winced and clapped a hand over his left flank. It felt like he had cracked a rib or two.

“Get him up, carry him if you have to. We’re getting out of here,” He moaned again as he stumbled.

Link moved to support him, taking the better of the injured man’s arms and wrapping across the back of his neck and shoulders.

“I’ve got you, you’re not gonna stay behind and play hero. That’s my job.” the Lieutenant said jokingly.

“Link,” Euless wheezed, “You know this place better than any of us. You’re in command.”

The young man froze hearing those words, as did Saito. She looked to the less experienced man, having just been passed over. Ordinarily, she might be upset. Instead, she simply nodded and began working with Bruno to hoist Herne off the ground after doing what they could to bandage his shoulder. It took Link a brief moment to let it sink in and get past the shock of it. He had a team to lead out of danger.

“Right. We make for the exit we came in through. Commander, can you still arm your weapons?” the Lieutenant asked.

Euless grunted and slung his loose arm about, trying to cycle through what remained available.

“I’ve got maybe four shots from my plasma rifle, two incendiary rounds, two ballistics. Not much to speak of.” the Commander said, “Those bastards knocked out most of my artillery.”

“Keep them ready. We’ll blast our way out if we have to.” Link replied.

He quickly formulated a basic escape plan. It wasn’t pretty but it would have to do. The group lumbered down the hallway as quickly as they could. As they stumbled along, the Lieutenant commanded his suit to add protection around the shard stored in his chest, including a dense energy field. Hopefully it would have the desired effect. The entryway loomed before them and just as the Lieutenant expected, there were guards. Euless lifted his arm and fired an incendiary round into the group. It exploded into a violent eruption of flame, sending the group of cloaked men running and screaming in agony.

As the flames on the ground died out, the five hurried out into the maze of outcrops. Just before they vanished into the labyrinth, Link turned around and helped Euless aim once more. An explosion rocked the stone structure, causing the entrance to crumble and collapse. Without bothering to look back, the two turned and darted away as more cultists arrived. Their screams of terror could be heard as the two statues came to life.

“Commander! Do you copy!? This is Minster Roslin! Come in!” crackled everyone’s radios.

The comms were back! Link’s theory had been right! The shard was the cause of the blackout!

“This is Lieutenant Link! The Commander and Herne are down! I’ve assumed command! We’re trying to make our way towards the extraction point north of the complex but we won’t make it in time! Euless and Herne are immobile and need immediate medical attention! We need evac to come to us!” he shouted back through the headset.

Saito chimed in, adding a crucial piece of information to provide incentive to expedite their efforts back in the command center.

“We have a Wildfire situation! Failsafe has been established within the temple! I repeat, failsafe is active! T minus three minutes!” she shouted.

“Failsafe acknowledged,” Roslin replied, sounding very displeased, “Tracking you now. Evac is being rerouted to a clearing about a hundred meters due north of your position. Did you complete your mission?”

Link nodded, “Affirmative! We have the shard!”

The group moved with labored speed through the outcrops, finally reaching the clearing on the other side where they could see their shuttle just coming in for a landing. Immediately, the flight crew leapt out to assist with Herne and Euless just as bolts of black began to rain down on them from behind. The cultists had caught up with them.

“Get them on board! Now!” Link barked.

He turned about and drew his bow again, loosing arrow after arrow at the hostiles. One by one they fell, but their numbers were replenished far too quickly. The Lieutenant continued to fire, backing his way towards the shuttle. A few stout rounds from the ship’s weapons discouraged further advances from the dark aggressors and Link leapt aboard. The engines powered up and the shuttle was off the ground, turning gracefully in the air, aiming for the distant horizon and charged forward.

“How long until failsafe?” the pilot asked, seeming rather calm in spite of the looming danger; a credit to his training and experience.

Saito strapped herself in, “Forty-five seconds. Are we outside the radius yet?”

“Not yet. Everyone hold on. It’s about to get rough,” the pilot said as he shoved his hand forward, ramming the throttle to its utmost speed which made the entire craft lurch as it accelerated, “Engaging emergency jump in five seconds.”

No one spoke as the timer ran down. The whole craft lurched forward as the engines popped, sending them streaking away. When the failsafe timer hit zero, a brilliant flash of light surrounded the temple. The earth shook and the air roared angrily. Link and several of the crew turned their heads back once the harsh light faded. A cloud of smoke, dust, and flame had consumed the complex. The temple was gone, as was the horde deep inside and the cultists still positioned around and in it. A collective sigh of relief rose out of the three still mobile soldiers.

The mission was finally complete.

Chapter List – – – Next Chapter