Chapter 18 – The Weight of Command

Chapter List – – – Previous Chapter

“Weapons free! Incoming!” Saito shouted.

She had just barely enough time to give the command before she was pinned to the ocean floor by five feral Zora. The rest of her team was similarly engaged. They were vicious. They clawed, bit, and kicked as though they were ravenous animals. Either the soldiers were tackled and held down or dragged off up the wall. Thankfully, those who were armored were a little better protected. Exal and his warriors on the other hand were a little less fortunate. Their protection wasn’t quite as comprehensive. Blood began to seep into the water as the two sides traded blows. The freshly turned Zora joined the fray, making it thirty-one to sixteen. Not exactly good odds.

Those who weren’t completely overwhelmed drew their weapons and began firing, or engaged in aquatic hand to hand combat. The unaffected Zora were a sight to behold. They were deadly and graceful as they fought back their brothers and sisters. It was like watching a strange undersea ballet. They turned sharply, striking with such speed and power. The water wasn’t any hindrance to them at all.

Link had the misfortune of being dragged down further into the quarry, kicking and firing away at the two on his legs. As they leapt onto him, he brought both arms up to protect his face and chest. In that instant, something clicked in his mind. He felt his left hand pulsing. It was more than just a sensation in his palm. It was something deeper, not unlike the Potentate’s voice in his mind earlier. It gave him calm and clarity of thought, even as the two rabid Zora pounced. With a single shove, he pushed back against the two feral warriors atop him. They scrambled to right themselves in the water as soon as they overcame the sense of surprise.

The feral Zora hissed at Link as he climbed to his feet and lifted his weapon to take aim. The blade split apart evenly right along the center line as it was meant to. Energy began to arc down the two halves. This was where he imagined the hero might have some witty or morale-boosting one liner at the ready. He let the moment pass unmarked and pulled the trigger. The blast connected with the first of the two targeting him.

The nearer of the two Zora went limp and drifted to the ground slowly, groaning unhappily in unconsciousness. The second hissed all the louder and flung itself towards the Lieutenant. A second blast took care of him as well. With both on the ground and out of the fight, Link retrieved a small device from the suit’s storage. He ran the end of it over the wrists of the two he had managed to take down. As it moved across their skin, it left behind a thin yet incredibly strong plastic strap, binding them so they could not easily jump back into the fight.

The whole skirmish and restraint took only about fifteen seconds. When Link was certain his back would be secure, he turned around toward the rest of the action and opened fire on the horde. He was one of four who had managed to draw their weapons, making short work of anyone who was foolish enough to let themselves be hit. As he and the others took the heat off the rest of the team, Saito managed to claw her way to her feet and return the favor. She drew her sidearm and fired just past Link’s shoulder, silencing the two he had handled earlier as they attempted to interfere again.

“Command! This is Saito! We’re under attack! Heavy forces bearing down on us! Stun is not having much of an effect! They’re getting back up after only a few seconds! Please advise!” the Major roared through her radio.

She swung her weapon about, firing again and again. Her goal was to free anyone being pinned down. Within moments, the whole of the team was back on their feet, fighting for their lives. What injuries they had suffered–amazingly–were minor.

“Acknowledged, Major, stand by. We’re awaiting instructions.” Yates said, sounding oddly calm for such a situation.

“Instructions for what!?” Saito cried out in dismay, deeply annoyed by the lack of leadership from the Regent, so she took it upon herself to make a command decision in the absence of support, “Everyone! Circle up! Two groups! Put your backs to one another! Keep them on the ground! Do not let them get overhead! Link! Bruno! We’ll cover you! You two restrain the ones we put down! Anchor them to something so they can’t get back up!”

The two Hylians nodded, staying between the two groups for the moment. They pegged target after target, locking on to a pair they had managed to hit and keeping them stunned for as long as they could. When there was a gap in the action, both Link and Bruno charged out from the space between the two groups. With great haste they manhandled the unconscious figures, restraining their wrists as Link had done earlier. This time they even went as far as to bind their ankles. There was no sense in giving them even the tiniest margin of mobility if they could manage it. With a few well timed ducks, the rest of the team kept them from being taken. The two that had been restrained earlier continued to fight, even without the use of their arms. It showed that the restraints were holding.

“Bruno! I’ve got an idea!” the Lieutenant shouted.

The larger man looked to Link to see him began using the same adhesive bands to fasten the Zora he had captured to the rock underfoot. It was only the enraged warrior’s feet being attached, but hopefully that was all that would be needed. Seeing what Link was going for, Bruno quickly dragged his own catch over as well and pushed them both back to back. A quick securing saw the two hostile Zora attached to one another, then a second set of webbed feet bound to the rock beneath.

“Good thinking, kid. I’ll take the left, you take the right.” Bruno said.

The bigger fellow was in his element at this point, doing what he was trained to do. With a procedure in place, Link and Bruno began dragging their attackers one by one back to the cluster they were forming, attaching them to one another and lashing them to a single rock at first, adding a second and even a third as they progressed. They didn’t know how well it would stay adhered to their anchors but with the writhing, hissing, furious group all lumped together, it would be harder for them to do anything.

When about half of the horde was taken care of, the two groups broke and began to aid their efforts. In short order, there was one large grouping of Zora shrieking with unbridled rage and snapping angrily at the intruders. It pained Exal to see his people still so rabid, and even more so seeing one of his team lashed in with the group.

“That’s all thirty of them.” said a member of the new unit supporting Saito’s team.

He dusted off his hands, a useless gesture underwater, but it felt right. The tension began to ease down as nerves began to calm, save for the two Commanders.

“Wait, only thirty? Wasn’t there ano-” Saito said as she was cut off, then screamed as she was yanked to the ground, a hand on one of her feet.

One had slipped their count and pounced on her, trying to drag her back up the wall of the quarry away from the group. A host of weapons fire showered the Zora, missing by only the narrowest of margins. As she was dragged away, Saito pulled her sidearm again and began firing frantically. It slowed her attacker, making him hiss all the more angrily before the team below managed to score a hit.

The feral warrior cried out in pain and fell limp, drifting down to the ground. His hand refused to release Saito’s leg. She floated down with the unfortunate creature, kept pinned with a stun ever few seconds. The Major wrenched her leg free and scurried back and away before Link took the last one and bound him, this time against the wall of the quarry.

“Famous last words… next time do a proper count before you assume they’re all handled.” Saito said, chastising the Hylian soldier who had assumed the job was done.

She was rattled, but not badly enough to last. It still left her panting quietly from the startling she received. There was a mighty urge building in her, but the Major restrained her desire to give the now bound Zora a stout punch across the cheek. It would do no good, and it would probably only aggravate Exal. She didn’t want to damage the alliance.

“What could do this to such peaceful people?” the Zora Commander asked, “They’re monstrous.”

He was taking it harder than expected. The rest of his men were similarly shaken, now worrying when one of them might snap. Saito and Link looked to one another, sharing a brief nod. The Major turned and lifted a hand to the side of her helmet, radioing back to headquarters.

“This is Saito. Hostiles have been neutralized. No casualties, only light wounds. The Zora contingent is administering aid. We are down a man. One of Exal’s snapped and joined the school. We’re counting him as a hostile.” she reported.

It took several moments of dead air but Yates finally decided to respond.

“Excellent job, Major. We advise that you use your restraint bands to anchor them down to something, preferably something they can’t move.” he replied, having completely missed the fact that the team had done that already.

Saito rolled her eyes. She wanted to say something rather stinging but that wouldn’t go over well.

“Copy that. Requesting radio silence until we can confirm the area is secure.” the Major said in a gruff voice then gestured for all her people to disable the connection with command.

One by one, all of the Hylians did as they had been ordered to. Ordinarily, such a thing would have been suspicious, but with how painfully obvious it was that the Regent was going to be of no help, the two units were in agreement that it might be better to proceed as though they were cut off from command.

Saito turned to Exal, seeing how upset he was. She rest a hand on his shoulder, ready to offer him more than he had been given. There would be no comfort, not until this was all over, but at least he would know what he was fighting against.

“If you’ve got a signal back to home base they can monitor, you might want to switch it off for a little bit. I think it’s time you were properly briefed. C’mon.” the Major said and motioned for the Zora Commander to follow.

As the two officers walked a short distance off, presumably to share intel, the rest of Exal’s men frowned and began talking amongst themselves. Link and Bruno saw where their discussion was leading, talk of ‘command not knowing what the hell is going on’ or ‘they sent us on a suicide mission’ and things of the like.

“Guys,” Link said, drawing the attention of the visibly agitated Zora, “Just relax. It hasn’t gone the way we had hoped but we’re still here and for the most part no worse for the wear. Command knows what’s happening, and they wouldn’t have sent so small a team if they didn’t think we could make it. Just take it easy. The Major’s discussing the matter with the Commander. Let’s stay focused.”

Bruno nodded and added his own two cents, “We’ve got a job to do, and we can’t do it if we’re bickering about what we think is happening.”

That seemed to ease the rest of the team, modestly. At the very least it offered a clarity of mind they would need. After a moment, Saito and Exal returned, the Zora Commander looking rather displeased.

“Major Saito here has updated me on the situation. Unfortunately, I cannot give you all the details since most of it is highly classified. What I can tell you is there is an artifact somewhere on the dig site that is causing all of this. In addition to assuming control of the platform to stabilize the containment field and shut down all non-essential operations, the Hylians have a secondary objective to locate and retrieve the artifact. Once it’s in a containment field, there’s a good chance our people could turn back to normal.” Exal explained.

“So what do we do? We just keep strapping down any hostiles we come across?” asked a member of Saito’s support team, “We don’t have enough bands for even a quarter of the platform’s crew.”

“Yeah, that kind of rig has a minimum occupancy of three hundred.” added another.

Exal lifted his hands to quiet the soldiers, “I know. I know. The situation will be different once we’re inside. We won’t have to contend with the water and we can lock down sections as we clear them. Let’s buckle down and move like we’ve got a purpose. The clock is still running.”

The team, more than just a little demoralized, licked their wounds and crossed the quarry towards the drilling platform. The service lights cast eerie columns of luminescence throughout the dark world. It was essentially a small underwater city, likely just the first settlement of what would eventually become the next thriving aquatic metropolis run by the Zora. If they could get things back under control.

The stanchion in question seemed undamaged and the access hatch was pried open without any real difficulty. The shaft inside was black as pitch. The light the team created was largely unhelpful in grasping the scope of their ascent. There wasn’t anything to do but go up, so up they went. The Zora troops simply swam while the Hylians used a bit of clever science. They had a means of making themselves less prone to float, so with a simple shifting of settings, they suddenly began to drift upward without any effort at all.

“This is Yates, we’re having difficulty reading your signal. Can you boost the gain on your end?” the Regent asked.

“It’s the platform, sir. We won’t be able to do anything about it until we reach one of the decks,” Saito replied and grumbled as she cut her signal back to command, “This is what happens when you put a man like him in charge. No military experience, just a damned politician.”

Link was similarly irritated but offered a different reason for their poor reception to their interim mission coordinator.

“We’re closer to the shard now. It could be playing with our signal like it did last time. If we can alter the protection screen over the vent to filter out its radiation, that should clear it up.” he explained.

“Yes, yes I see. My apologies. Carry on.” Yates replied.

The tone of his voice felt awkward. If the Lieutenant didn’t know any better, he would have thought it was insincere. With all that was going on, there wasn’t much point in paying it much mind. Saito shook her head as if to take that potential insincerity at face value then looked up, waiting to see when they might breech the surface. A light shined from high above, growing brighter as they rose. It wouldn’t be much longer.

“Alright, we’re almost to the top of the stanchion. Deactivate the adapters, they haven’t been tested in the open air. Don’t want to chance anything.” Saito said.

The Major gave the oval-shaped object on her chest a firm tap. Her suit reconfigured back to its original shape and design, all the additional features retreating back from wince they came. The others did the same, the lot of them looking like Hylian troops once again. Link meanwhile seemed to be having a bit of trouble. He tapped his chest but nothing happened. He tapped it again and just as before, no reaction from his suit.

“Major, I can’t take mine off,” Link said as he tapped his knuckles on the ovular device with more strength, “I’m getting an error in my HUD. It’s showing some sort of misfire in the adaptor. It can’t retract the add-ons.”

Saito grabbed the Lieutenant’s arm and pulled him over, giving his chest a solid ‘THUNK’ with a closed fist. No change. The brute force approach had no effect, and they were running out of time.

“Damn,” the Major swore unhappily, “Exal, what’s the worst thing that could happen if this suit hits the open air?”

“It might short out, it might break apart. I don’t know. These are prototypes. We’ve never tried adapting your suits before.” the Zora Commander explained.

“Will it affect his armor’s integrity?” Saito asked.

Exal thought for a brief moment, trying to think of anything that might give them reason to be concerned, “I don’t think it should. He might not be able to use the adaptor again once it fails. We’ll have to get him to the surface some other way if that happens.”

Saito looked back towards the shimmering boundary above as it approached, wincing softly, “Link, brace yourself.”

One by one the team broke the surface of the water, each one making their way over to the platform floating at that level. With a bit of effort, they climbed out onto the dry dock, pulling the Lieutenant out as well. He grunted and stepped back away from the group should anything happen, waiting for new errors to appear in his HUD. He stood there while everyone watched, expecting something catastrophic, but nothing ever came. He opened his eyes and looked over his suit, apparently completely unaffected.

“Well… that was anticlimactic.” he said.

“Yeah, I thought this thing was gonna short out, crumble into pieces, or something,” Saito said, “Run a system’s check wouldja?”

Link did just that, reading over the statistics and transmitting them to both Commanders. They weren’t terribly encouraging but they were stable.

“Defense screen integrity has been cut in half. The suit is devoting too much energy to keeping the adaptor in place. You won’t be able to take as many hits as you normally might. Not until you get back in the water.” Exal said, sounding half disappointed and half impressed.

He didn’t expect it to perform so well so soon off the engineering desk. Out of all of the units, only one had a problem, and it was appearing to be one that they could manage for the time being.

“If it’s all the same to you, Commander,” Link said, “I’d prefer to not take a hit at all.”

The Zora grinned a bit and turned towards the ladder behind them, “Copy that. Alright people, let’s keep moving. We’re just a few levels down from the command center.”

Up they climbed, one at a time. The going was relatively slow, and with no way to raise the water level inside the shaft, it would stay slow. Eventually, they reached a hatch at the top of the stanchion and climbed through, emptying out into a room that was just big enough for the whole team. The hatch was sealed and the room’s pressure eased down to match the rest of the platform. That meant the Hylians would be able to doff their suits if necessary, though likely that wouldn’t be happening until end of mission.

When it was clear, they cautiously opened the door, not picking up any movement on their sensors. The corridor beyond was a mess. Panels were charred or blown off completely. Wires–snapped and ripped apart–hung from the walls and ceiling. Flecks of dried blood could be found across the floor. The lights flickered now and again, providing only partial illumination. Whatever happened there, it had been nasty. A few whispers began to spread through the team. Exal was not pleased.

“Settle down, everyone. We knew we were walking into a combat zone. Let’s not get distracted. We need to get to the control room immediately.” he said.

Link reached out and gripped the Zora Commander’s shoulder as he tried to turn.

“Wait,” the Lieutenant said as he looked down at the back of his left hand, which had begun to pulse, “I think we’d better hide. They might have heard us entering. Or one of the others outside escaped and raised the alarm.”

The Commander peered at the triangular mark on the young man’s hand, stunned quietly. He knew the legends but he didn’t put much stock in them. Seeing Link’s hand brought them all back quite suddenly. His faith and trust in the young Lieutenant immediately became near implicit. He nodded and looked about, gauging what would make for the best cover.

“Over here. Quiet, everyone.” Exal ordered.

He shoved a nearby hatch open and peered in. Once it was clear, he motioned for the team to pile in. It was a small laboratory–chemistry from what the setup offered. Most of the glass equipment had been destroyed as though a struggle had taken place. The group hurried through and ducked down behind the tables and consoles, weapons at the ready. The sound of bare feet on metal filled the corridor outside. Saito peered through a narrow gap in the hatch to spy on the situation. A group of five deranged Zora raced by, hissing and growling. One of them lifted their head from the hunched posture they had all taken and howled loudly. Immediately, more joined the group. Quite a lot more in fact.

Carefully and quietly, Saito backed away from the hatch and took up a defensible position like the rest of the team. A creek sounded throughout the lab as the hatch was slowly pushed open. They had noticed the water trail the team had left and followed them in. So much for stealth.

A single Zora leaned in, his teeth bared, eyes black like a shark’s, peering about. His gaze came to meet one of the soldiers waiting just inside. The barrel of a weapon was pointed directly at his face, centimeters away. He hissed loudly, no doubt ready to alert the rest. A flash of green could be seen out in the corridor as a single shot was fired. The target fell backwards, writhing momentarily before becoming motionless. The horde outside wailed angrily and began to surge through the doorway. Bursts of energy rained down upon them from within. The door was an excellent choke point.

“Why didn’t they show up on our sensors!?” Exal shouted, quite baffled, taking shots now and again at what seemed like a never-ending wave of hostiles.

“We had the same problem on our previous mission! There’s got to be something about the radiation! When it saturates an area, it interferes with our readings!” Saito cried, grunting as each shot sent the butt of her weapon into her shoulder.

“Did we wake the whole platform!? Where are they all coming from!?” shouted Bruno.

It couldn’t be the hundreds it felt like it had turned into. There wasn’t enough room in the hallway. Link took his time with his shots, aiming carefully and hitting either chest or head each time. He watched as one of his victims fell, finding himself compelled to continue watching them after they had been handled. A sickening twist formed in his stomach as almost immediately, the feral Zora climbed back to their feet and joined the horde again.

“Stun is having even less effect in the open air! They’re getting right back up!” Link shouted.

Saito frowned and tapped the side of her helmet, desperate for guidance, “Command! We’re under heavy assault inside the platform! Stun is having no appreciable effect! We’re pinned down! Please advise!”

Yates stammered quietly, clearly struggling for answers. The Chancellor stood next to him, both frowning as the situation unraveled. While the Regent could offer no help, Artan stepped in.

“Commander Exal, do what you can to neutralize them without harming them. They are still citizens of the Zora Dominion. We don’t know if removing this artifact will return them to normal.” the Chancellor said.

It wasn’t exactly the most helpful order.

“Commander, belay that,” called out a new voice, bringing the Chancellor to lift his gaze, rather annoyed that someone was countermanding him, but as soon as he realized who it was, his calm returned, “This is Potentate Zelda. Your mission’s objective is at risk. I hereby authorize the use of lethal force. Try to minimize casualties if you can.”

Her voice silenced everyone, even the soldiers whose lives were in danger. Saito found it difficult to believe.

“Ma’am… are you sure you want to do this?! These are people! Civilians! Scientists!” she cried, still firing into the horde slowly spilling into the lab.

“I know, Major. They are also hostiles keeping you from completing your mission. If you fail, not only will you fail to save the lives of the remaining survivors, but the platform’s systems will fail and an artificial thermal vent will begin poisoning the ecosystem with its heat. The results would be disastrous. There is also your other objective to consider should you not survive. You will switch to lethal rounds immediately,” Zelda said, then paused, waiting for the command to sink in, adding one final addendum, “Try to be merciful. May the goddesses grant them peaceful rest… and forgive us our sins.”

For a moment, Saito remained quiet amidst the hail of gunfire. It was a bad situation. A bad solution was required.

“Understood, your highness,” the Major replied then hoisted her gun back into place and flicked her thumb over a switch in its side, triggering a soft whine from the weapon, “Switching to lethal rounds.”

The first shot rang out, distinctly different. It was a hateful, vicious sounding thing. It cleaved through the air and struck the first target. It contacted the Zora’s chest and knocked them back. Down they fell as smoke rose from the charred wound. They didn’t get back up.

“Potentate! You cannot order lethal force!” the Chancellor cried in dismay.

Yates took on a stoic expression and turned to the head of the Zora kingdom, resting a hand on his shoulder, “I’m sorry sir, but she already has. It is the only way. You have my deepest condolences.”

The sound of numerous lethal shots being fired followed until the hallway was clear. Exal stood at the front of the group, panting heavily, furious and taken by the red haze. He had been the most aggressive of the group. His shots had been precise, but brutal, taking no chances on the chest being insufficient. He had gone for the head each time. The rest of the team stood quietly as they looked to him. Even Saito was a little stunned. The Zora Commander looked back at the group as he tried to compose himself. He sensed their concern.

“I’m fine… I am,” he said, knowing he wasn’t convincing anyone, “It had to be done. Now let’s move. We don’t know if more will be on the way. We’re flying blind down here.”

Exal stepped out the hatch, looked either way down the corridor, motioned it was clear, and disappeared one direction, waiting just outside for the rest to join him. Saito, Bruno, and Link all looked at one another, sharing a similar glance with the other four they brought with them. The Zora contingent followed their Commander out the hatch without a second thought.

“Anyone else think he was just a little too eager to go for the throat?” the Major asked.

Bruno nodded solemnly, “Yeah, that was… kinda scary. Wherever that shard is hiding, we need to find it and get it out of here. Fast.”

Saito nodded, “Let’s move. Link… I want you on point. You’re the only one who can tell us when we’ve got incoming.”

The Hylian half of the team emerged, hurrying to catch up with the other half. Exal remained intensely focused on the task at hand, walking forward without any real concern about remaining undetected. Saito moved up alongside, making room for the Lieutenant to pass by. While he was keeping an eye on his hand, Saito gave Exal a light nudge.

“So, you wanna talk about what happened back there?” she asked.

“What’s there to talk about?” Exal replied coldly.

“You were just ordered to kill your own people. And you look like you were almost enjoying it.” Saito said quietly, trying to make sure their conversation remained between the two of them.

“Believe me, there is nothing about what just happened that I enjoyed. I just realized that if we don’t complete our mission, others will suffer,” Exal explained, “And no offense, Major, but I’d rather Zora lives be taken by other Zora if it’s necessary.”

Saito raised an eyebrow, finding that to be just too convenient an answer, “Had that realization that fast, huh?”

Exal turned towards the Major and held up a small bauble on a polished steel chain. It was a beautiful, pristine blue stone. He let her get a good long look at it before tucking it away again.

“This belonged to my wife. She hated wearing it around her neck. It was wrapped around the wrist of one of the scientists we just killed.” he explained.

Saito froze. She instantly understood. And at the same time, it confused her further.

“You… killed your own wife!?” she hissed in utter shock.

Exal turned back towards the path before them. He had hardened since they first met. He was cold, pushing away any sensation. Whether that was from the trauma he had just gone through or perhaps the effect of the shard was near impossible to tell.

“You said it yourself. This shard thing can raise the dead, as monsters. That doesn’t sound like something you come back from, not as yourself at least. Anyone who snaps is gone. They’re not coming back. The only solace I can take is that I was the one that put her down. I don’t have to hate someone else for it.” Exal said.

“You don’t know that! How could you do that to her!?” Saito fired back, trying hard not to shout.

The Commander turned sharply, raising his voice louder than perhaps he should, “Because if I didn’t, we would still be in that lab right now! Probably laying in pools of our own blood! We have a job to do and I’m not going to let anyone stand in my way!”

The group halted at the sound of his voice. Exal’s frills and fins had lifted and fanned out, making him look bigger than he was. Any Zora could see he was furious. The question now was whether or not this was him channeling the rage and pain of losing his wife into doing his job, or if he was being eaten away by the shard. Saito frowned, holding her ground.

“And what happens if we lose you? What if you go nuts? I’m supposed ta put a bolt through your head?” she asked.

The pale blue Zora’s voice returned to an appropriate level. It was even and measured, hinting at the fact that he wasn’t answering off the cuff. He had come to this conclusion earlier. His answer was concise and carefully worded.

“Without hesitation,” he said then turned and started walking again, “Turn left at the next junction. The Director was hiding out in the auxiliary communication relays. We need her help if we plan on taking control of the platform.”

The group proceeded onward. Saito pulled her people back a bit with the exception of Link. She leaned over to Bruno, hoping he might pass the word along.

“Keep an eye on our Zora friends. Any one of them could take a sudden turn. And watch each other. I don’t want to bank on us being immune and end up unpleasantly surprised.”

Bruno nodded and began passing the word along to the other four behind him. As they moved along the corridors, they came across groups of Zora turned feral. Commander Exal exercised little discretion in bringing them down, and did so with minimum effort. It was rather terrifying how quickly he was willing to turn on his own people. With him in the lead and with Link serving as the only one in front of him, the going was suddenly much easier.

When the room they sought came up before them, the Commander rapped hard on it. Silence answered at first, but then the sound of movement could be heard. A voice, small and terrified, came from behind the hatch.

“Who’s there!?” called out someone on the other side.

Exal leaned against the hatch and spoke loudly in order to be heard through the metal, “We’re the rescue team you requested. We’re here to take control of the platform. Open the door.”

The sound of a wheel being turned squeaked away until the hatch unlocked and swung open. Inside stood a young lady, clearly shaken badly by the monstrous turn the crew had taken.

“You’re here… to rescue us!? Really!?” the lady asked, relief rushing through her as she watched Exal nod, “Oh thank the goddesses!”

“Before we can actually get you out of here, Director, we need your help in getting the platform back under control.” the Commander said.

“I’m not the Director! I’m just a technician that operates a few of the consoles! She’s gone mad! You have to stop her!” the lady Zora cried.

The Commander growled, stepping through the hatch.

“If she’s become one of them, the only thing we can do is put her out of her misery.” he said.

“What!?” the technician replied in shock, “No! She hasn’t become one of them! She left! She tried to find the source of the radiation, convinced it was what was causing the insanity in the crew! She had some of the techs sealed up in their lab run a basic scan and found the source! She took off to go find it! You have to get to her before she kills herself!”

Saito, Bruno, and Link all looked to one another. It was going to be one of those missions.

“Settle down, ma’am,” the Major said as she tried her best to calm the Zora woman, “We’ll do what we can to help her, but first we have some more pressing issues. We need to get to the control room and get the situation managed. Do you know how to work this platform?”

The Zora woman nodded, “Yes ma’am, I do. Sort of. I haven’t learned all the stations yet. I’ll do what I can though.”

Saito nodded, “You said the Director located the source of the radiation, did she tell you where?”

“Yes! Down in the upper levels of the vent!” the technician answered.

Chapter List – – – Next Chapter