Outside, Link descended carefully, turning about to keep a vigilant eye open for any signs of trouble. He reached the ocean floor easily enough and tapped the device on his chest to give his boots just enough extra weight to hold him down. Walking along the bottom would keep him concealed far better than swimming through open water, even if swimming would be faster. From time to time, he ducked behind a rock to hide from a passing group of Zora. The second unit turning back proved to be an advantage after all. A single person was easier to keep out of sight than a whole team. Of course, it meant there were fewer eyes and sensors watching for trouble. Thankfully, the Lieutenant found no resistance.
As Link approached the vent, the readout of the water temperature rose steadily. The shimmer of the protection field marked the end of his progress. Tentatively, he reached out and passed his hand through the field, retreating it swiftly as he winced. He could feel the heat through his glove, and it was intense enough to hurt, but not actually burn him. Any longer than a quick test and he would suffer grave injury.
“Command, this is Lieutenant Link, any word from the Gorons yet?” he asked through his radio.
“This is Chancellor Artan. We’re in talks with them right now. They have something they think might be of assistance. They’re concerned that it may not be compatible with your suit’s altered state. It should be en route now.” answered the Zora who had taken over for Yates.
Nadia confirmed as she came on over the radio, “Verified, ten seconds until arrival. Stand by.”
A countdown timer appeared in Link’s HUD, matching Nadia’s voice point for point. They had been terribly punctual about it. Link made a mental note to extend a proper thank you to both the Zora and the Gorons after this was over.
“Understood, standing by.” the Lieutenant said.
“Three, two, one, package arriving.” Nadia reported.
Two points of light formed just over Link, one over each shoulder. They started expanding out quickly until it appeared as if he had an entirely new set of pads covering the very top of his chest. They settled into place and the light faded to reveal a dark, industrial metal appearance, locking in and meshing with his suit. The screen showed the suit’s acceptance of the new equipment and power began to feed in.
“Bringing the new defense screen online now.” Link said as he gave his suit the command.
The suit accepted the order, triggering a shift from the azure hue to a rich crimson. The plating all across his form began reconfiguring to better ablate the intense heat he would be subjected to. When everything settled into place, Link was no longer covered in the sleek, streamlined armor provided by the Zora. Instead, he was bulkier, heavier, more densely plated, and ready for high pressure and heat. The add-on had integrated successful, and he felt neigh invincible.
There was a problem however.
“Command,” the Lieutenant said with a note of uncertainty in his voice, “Suit diagnostics are telling me power is being drained faster than normal. The new screen is drawing too much energy.”
A new voice joined in, deep and heavy. Link recognized the race immediately.
“We’re reading that as well, Lieutenant,” It was one of the Gorons, possibly the head of their government, or one of their technicians that was put on this project, “We didn’t have time to reconfigure the generators to run on your power supplies. With both the pressure and heat screens active, you will have extremely limited time before your power cells are completely drained. It should last long enough for you to do your job… just be quick about it.”
“Already racing against the clock, so, nothing new. Thanks for the upgrade,” Link replied as he stepped a bit closer and passed his hand through the field again, finding the heat to not affect him in the slightest now, “I’m about to pass through the protection field and enter the vent. Be advised, the field is blocking out some of the shard’s radiation. I may lose comms once I’m in.”
“Understood Lieutenant. We’ll keep a light on for you.” Nadia said.
Confirmation was sent to the team in the drilling platform as well. There was nothing stopping him at this point. He was ready to walk into an active geothermal vent, something that would have been unthinkable under ordinary circumstances.
With a certain degree of trepidation, Link stepped forward into the field and continued right over the edge of the vent, dropping down into the chasm. The field passed without any trouble but just as he predicted, the radio went dead immediately. He was on his own. The chasm was an unsettling bright red. The shimmer of heat distorted everything. As he fell, he saw a series of ledges along the wall of the pit and aimed for the nearest one. As he landed, he looked up to see one of the schools of mad Zora swimming overhead. They kept well clear of the field. Without protection, they would boil into the finest meal the scavengers of the deep would ever know.
“Well, at least I don’t have to watch my back.” the Lieutenant said to himself.
“Don’t let your guard down, Link.”
He froze hearing the voice in his mind again. He didn’t want to be rude, but it was a very tense situation.
“Highness… please forgive me, but I don’t know if now is a good time to talk.”
Now he was telling the Potentate to be quiet. He must have lost all sense of reason. Thankfully, she handled it with far more grace than he would have were their positions and ranks reversed.
“No, it isn’t, but you must hurry. The closer the Director gets to the shard, the more likely it is she could go mad. If she attacks you, you both could very easily perish. Use the Triforce in your hand to locate the shard. It should guide you to it.”
Link lifted his hand and watched the soft pulsing on the back of his palm, waving it slowly back and forth through the water. The pulsing faded and returned as he ‘scanned’ with it as though he had a Geiger counter attached to his arm. Eventually, it seemed to shine constantly as it fixed on the shard. The path it suggested appeared to take him into a cave along the wall of the vent that happened to be a good ways further down.
“Thank you for the advice. Now if you’ll excuse me, Potentate, I should concentrate on this.”
The Lieutenant leapt off the ledge he had settled on and began swimming towards the cave. Swimming wasn’t quite the way to describe it, rather falling while trying to direct what direction he was dropping. It was terribly inelegant, but then he wasn’t getting points for style. Already he was displeased with the direction things had gone. To waste time worrying about the aesthetic of ‘sinking with grace’ was pointless.