Chapter 19 – But We Just Got Here

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“The Director has gone down into the vent!?” Exal shouted.

He was understandably upset. Everyone who had come to the platform did so with the understanding that they would be meeting up with the Director once they got inside. So far, little about the mission had gone as anticipated. It didn’t help calm the poor young lady left to coordinate everyone still themselves around the station in the Director’s absence.

“She took a personal heat shield generator and a handheld plasma drill! She’s out of her mind! The mobs will kill her!” the Zora woman cried.

Saito turned to the rest of the group, “Change of plans. Bruno and I will go with Exal’s team to the control room. Link, you and the rest will head to the nearest moon pool and get down to the vent. You have to get that shard.”

The Zora woman reached out, gripping the other woman’s arm to try and stop her.

“The heat down there is too intense for your suits!” she said, hoping to stop any more senseless deaths, “You’re armor will melt and seal into your own personal tombs while you boil alive!”

The Major frowned at the young lady. She didn’t need to go into such detail. The mental image it conjured was terribly unpleasant. It would take some strong mind-bleach to cleanse it. A light tap on the side of her helmet connected Saito back to headquarters.

“Command, we have a potential fix on the location of the shard. It’s down inside the artificial vent. We don’t have anything on board currently to protect against that kind of heat. Please advise.” she reported.

Yates spoke up, sounding just as uncertain as ever.

“Stand by Major, we’re trying to brainstorm here.” He said.

The Regent was clearly scrambling to conjure up a solution. In his confusion, the Chancellor stepped in with the only logical idea.

“Major, we’re going to reach out to the Gorons. They have the most experience with heat resistance technology. The Potentate is already attempting contact,” the Zora said, “In the meantime, try to regain control of the station and stabilize the containment field.”

“Understood Chancellor, we’re moving into position now,” Saito replied then turned to the team, “Alright, plan hasn’t changed. The Lieutenant is in command while you’re out there. Commander, Bruno–let’s get to the control center. Maybe there’s something we can do from there.”

Exal nodded, barking an order to his remaining warriors to do as the Major said. He gave the technician they found a light push to guide her out the door, more of encouragement and an urging to hurry rather than a gesture of annoyance. It took him a moment to register that it might have been taken as the later rather than the former, so he offered what words of comfort he could.

“Come on, you can’t stay here. We’ve got your back.” the Commander said.

The woman nodded and moved along with them, staying close to the middle of the group just in case any more roaming feral Zora happened to show up. She was unarmed and lacking any body armor–to say nothing of her mental state. She was going to be a liability in combat.

The teams split up, Link providing his group of the team with the only real means of detecting the feral schools. Exal, Saito, and Bruno guided their portion of the group through the platform to the control room with relative ease. Their only obstacles were corridors in need of repair. It seemed the mad Zora had turned their attention elsewhere. Once in, they sealed the doors and got to work. The Zora technician they had been escorting immediately dashed over to the nearest console and began furiously punching in commands.

“Internal sensors are inoperative on most levels. I can’t locate any of the roaming mobs. Stand by, I’m going to see if I can connect to the pockets of survivors.” she said.

“Anyone who knows how to operate a platform like this take a station and get me a status update. See if you can get Saito plugged into the Lieutenant’s progress,” Exal ordered as he moved to one of the forward consoles, peering out the glass into the dark sea beyond, “And see if you can’t get a view of the vent. We need eyes on as much as we can get.”

Thankfully, the control center was largely intact. It didn’t appear as though any major skirmish had taken place there. The group fanned out to obey the Commander’s orders, eager to complete the mission. The Zora woman went to work on attempting to establish contact with the rest of the platform. With a job to focus on–as well as a unit of the Domain’s finest protecting her, she quickly found her calm and focus.

“To all remaining survivors, this is Second Technician Fera. A contingent of Zora and Hylian soldiers have taken command of the control center. We are currently attempting to diffuse the situation. Remain where you are. If you are able to, please send details regarding your numbers, who is unaffected, and your current status,” the woman called out through the station-wide network, “Repeat, to anyone who can hear this message, control room has been secured, please send confirmation of your status.”

Within minutes, the communications station was filled with responses. Quite a few had managed to weather the insanity. It was an encouraging list of crew and locations. With the right push, they probably could have a good many of the platform’s functions back up and running in relatively short order.

Unfortunately, their luck wasn’t that good. One of the Zora turned from his console and reported the bad news.

“Commander, it’s worse than the remote readouts suggested. Power levels are at thirty-seven percent and falling. It’s bleeding out somewhere. The protection field has been destabilizing gradually for the last three hours. I estimate it will collapse in thirty minutes. If we can’t resolve the power situation, we’re looking at an ecosystem ending event.” the warrior said.

“Coordinate with the surviving crew to see if we can shunt power from nonessential systems into the field. If we can’t get enough power to bring it back up to full strength, start looking into options.” the Commander said.

In spite of his cold behavior earlier, Exal seemed remarkably even and measured. His team was performing just as calmly and professionally. One of them even managed to zero in on the other team.

“Major, I have Lieutenant Link’s unit on sensors. They’re approaching the southwest moon pool. It looks like it’s in the best shape.” they said.

Saito approached the console showing as much. She rest a hand on the back of the Zora’s chair, appreciating how easily the two militaries were gelling.

“Do we have any communications down there? Or do I have to use suit comms?” she asked.

“I think I can get you access to the PA system in that room. There, try it now.” the warrior answered.

Saito waited patiently for the group of five to enter the moon pool. Thankfully, it was empty upon their arrival. Once they sealed the door, she spoke up.

“Lieutenant, it’s Saito. We’re in the control room. Status shows the field has less than half an hour left before it completely destabilizes. You have that long to get down there, find the Director and the shard, and get back out. We’re looking for a way to extend that time but don’t rely on it, and assume that it could be cut short at any minute.” she called out through the crackling speakers.

“Understood, Major.” Link replied.

He turned to the men under his command and ordered them into the water. He moved down the ramp as well, a little uneasy about disappearing into the sea again, but the worst of it was past. At this point, they just had to watch out for the mobs. His hand wasn’t pulsing hard enough to indicate any of them nearby, and so he pressed on, taking the lead.

Link sank to the bottom of the flooded chamber, looking out the chute towards open water. There didn’t appear to be anything moving out there, at least in the narrow field of vision the exit allowed. The other four joined him at the bottom of the chamber and he looked back to them.

“Reactivate the Zora augments. We’re going to need to move fast.” the Lieutenant ordered.

The soldiers all attempted to do exactly that, tapping the semi-spherical objects on their chests. Nothing seemed to come of it. They tried again before all manner of alerts and errors filled their displays. The unsettling pop of an underwater explosion, tiny but still powerful enough to be felt, sounded in everyone’s ears. Then several more followed. When everything settled and the errors and alerts vanished, the devices the Zora had given them fell away, sizzling in the water. They were useless now.

“Sorry sir,” said one of the soldiers, “Looks like they’re fried. HUD’s showing less than three minutes left before the pressure overcomes the seals. They must have damaged the plating when they went.”

Link growled in frustration. That was the absolute last thing they needed.

“Dammit. Saito, it’s Link. All four of my unit just lost their underwater capabilities. They tried to activate the Zora addons once we were submerged and they just shorted out. They’ve got three minutes left before their suits depressurize. I’m sending them back to you.” the Lieutenant reported as he waved his hand for the other four to return to the surface.

Reluctantly, they obeyed.

“Copy that, Lieutenant. Stand by and we’ll send some Zora down to accompany you.” Saito replied.

“Negative Major. They aren’t equipped to handle the heat, and from what I can tell, they’re the first to be affected by the shard. The closer we get, the more powerful the effect is. If I can’t bring these four, then I go alone.” Link said.

Saito slammed her palm against the console in front of her, shouting angrily. Things were unraveling and she was having a difficult time keeping everyone and everything together.

“Dammit, Link! I said no heroics! You hold your position! Bruno and I are coming down! You do not set foot outside that docking bay!” she shouted through the radio.

“That’s a negative, Major. Your suits will fry just like theirs. Mine’s the only one that didn’t. Sorry, but looks like this has to be a solo mission,” the Lieutenant said, “Trust me, I don’t wanna go down there alone any more than you want me to. It’s just the way it’s gotta be.”

Link turned and started walking towards the exit as his commanding officer swore over the radio. He did his best to ignore it and focus on his goal.

“Dammit! You do an about face this instant and march your ass back up to the control room! We’ll figure this out!” Saito roared.

“We don’t have time, Saito!” Link fired back, “The longer we talk about this, the closer we get to failing! I have to go right now if I’m going to pull this off! I’m sorry, there’s just no other way!”

The Major growled, knowing he was right. She remained quiet for a moment, finally finding her voice again as he reached the opening leading out into the open water.

“Move fast, don’t do anything stupid. We’ll try to maintain comms. We’re picking up the same sort of interference as we got back in the temple. The protection field is masking most of it, but comms are still gonna be choppy.” Saito said, sounding calm once again, though still exceedingly displeased.

“Understood. I’m descending to the ocean floor now.” Link said just before he leapt out of the mouth of the bay and began swimming downward.

This sleek, streamlined design made it so much easier to move about in the water. It almost felt like he wasn’t wearing armor at all. Wonderful engineers the Zora had. It would make progress much easier and faster. It was just a shame that the others had to suffer failures with their suits. Link had not been lying when he said he really didn’t want to go down there alone.

Up in the control room, Saito was badly agitated. She kicked an empty chair over in her frustration, not liking sending a single man out into a hostile situation–especially without sensors or communications at their best. Exal saw her anger and felt perhaps his earlier actions had encourage such inappropriate coping. In an attempt to set things a bit more right, he offered her what advice he could.

“There’s nothing you can do right now to help him,” the Commander said gently, “Focus that rage in a more productive direction. We could use some help with the secondary power relays. If you know any tricks, we’d appreciate it.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m on it.” Saito grumbled, moving over to a different console to help however she could.

She didn’t get but only a couple of steps before spinning about to issue an order to the soldier who had gotten her in contact with Link in the first place.

“You keep your eyes on him! I want to know the instant the situation changes, you hear me!?”

He nodded, “Yes ma’am.”

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