It was half an hour before Roslin quieted down. The rest of the crew remained silent throughout her horrible grief. She even turned violent at times. Impa did her best to console the woman. It was clear that she was going to have to wear herself out before anyone could speak reason to her. It wasn’t difficult to understand why she was in such a state.
The shock of what happened had not yet worn off for the rest, and there was still more to suffer. Saito commanded the shuttle away from the palace, aiming for one of the nearest military facilities. To everyone’s dismay, it had been leveled. A quick status check on the network showed many others either under attack or already destroyed. Things were quite bad and getting worse every minute that passed. The radio was switched on and a general call could be heard.
“This is a frequency-wide distress call! Are there any friendlies left out there!? Oh god! Everything’s destroyed! Every base within a hundred clicks of the central city is gone!”
Other voices joined in sharing the sentiment. It was becoming chaotic. The pilot growled, sick of the disorganization.
“This is Wingloft 1, Major Saito transmitting. All wings report in.” she said gruffly.
What followed was a much more orderly conversation. Three dozen or so callsigns came back. Most were in good condition with little to no damage or injuries to report. Eventually though, someone noticed an odd absence in the list.
“Has anyone seen or heard from Hylia 1?” asked one of the survivors, “I can’t find them on the scanners.”
“Maybe they made it to cover already.” said another voice.
“There would be a report of her getting to safety!” cried another voice.
Saito fell quiet and looked back over her shoulder to Euless. The Commander glanced back at Roslin briefly before looking back to the pilot, giving her a quiet nod. They had to be told. She turned back to look forward, not liking the duty of informing the masses of the tragedy. Her voice was somber but steady, breaking only momentarily.
“Wingloft 1 to all units, Hylia 1… has been lost.” Saito said.
Silence. No one dared speak. It was as if a curse had fallen upon them all. It couldn’t be true. Another voice finally responded.
“Wingloft 1, are you absolutely sure? Is there any chance for rescue?” asked the voice.
“That’s a negative. We watched it happen. Hylia 1 went down shortly after launch. There’s… there’s nothing to recover.” Saito explained.
“So what do we do? Our chain of command is broken!” cried another voice.
Euless growled and snatched the mic from Saito, mashing the button to speak angrily.
“This is Commander Euless aboard Wingloft 1! You will hold it together! We have Minister Roslin aboard! We are currently searching for a safe haven to land! An official announcement will be made in a few hours!” he shouted.
Impa stood and placed a hand on his shoulder, catching his attention.
“I have something they need to hear. Please, let me speak.” she said gently.
The Commander nodded softly, handing the microphone over to the Shiekah woman. She paused, taking a soft breath before clearing her throat and began.
“This is Impa, royal security and member of the Sheikah. All craft proceed to the following coordinates. Once there, take a bearing due north and slow to one hundred twenty kph. You will then broadcast your IFF signature with encryption Delta-4. There is safe harbor there. The Minister will be expecting you. From here forward until you land, maintain radio silence. If you are unable to reach those coordinates, divert to the nearest friendly landing zone and keep listening for further instructions.” she said.
Impa handed the microphone back and leaned in next to Saito. She began tapping away on the navigation screen, entering the coordinates she intended to transmit. She then moved to sit back down next to Roslin who had fallen quiet. The Minister had turned to stone it seemed. Her gaze was fixed, seemingly unblinking as she stared at the bulkhead in front of her. Saito entered the coordinates she was given and grew puzzled seeing where they led.
“Hey, there must be something wrong with the position you entered. It’s a mile up in the middle of nowhere. There’s nothing there, and it’s a deadzone to boot. No repeaters or transmitters of any kind. Why are you sending us out there?” Saito asked.
“Trust me, Major,” Impa said, “There is something there. Please follow the instructions I have provided and try to arrange it so we are the first among the military to arrive.”
“Whatever you say… s’not like we’ve got anywhere else to go. ETA is two hours, nineteen minutes. Looks like we’re the closest out of the fleet.” Saito replied.
She brought the shuttle about and powered it forward. She had no intention of taking them much above the altitude they had jumped away at. The harder they were to find, the longer they would have to plan their retaliation she figured.
Link settled into the seat across from Roslin and Impa, watching the Minister quietly and carefully. She was mumbling something, breathing slowly and steadily as if part of some strange form of meditation.
“Is she going to be alright?” Link asked.
Impa nodded, draping an arm across Roslin’s shoulders, “She will be. Give her time. She is grieving. What has happened hurts her deeper than anyone could possibly know.”
“We’ve lost Zelda,” Link replied sympathetically, “We’re all cut pretty deep. I guess she’s bound to be the hardest hit, being her right hand. What’s she saying?”
Impa sighed, looking to the woman to her right, “She is reciting a prayer for those we have lost. It is a Sheikah prayer. It means ‘we are the shadows, but we shall never forget those who cast us’.”
It was strangely deep and soulful. Something about it seemed terribly appropriate.
“Why is she offering a Sheikah prayer? She isn’t one of your people, is she?” Link asked.
Impa shook her head.
“Not by blood, no, but we raised her as if she were. Her parents believed it would be wise for her to live among us for a few years, as do many parents among the nobility. They knew if she was ever to come to power as she has, those experiences would give her the connection to the kingdom she would need. As far as we are concerned, she is one of us. Don’t worry, Link. The Roslin we know will surface again. She just needs time. Less than you might think,” she said and offered a soft smile, as if she were proud of what she was about to say, “She is Sheikah after all. We are a strong people.”
The Lieutenant nodded, sighing quietly as he lowered his gaze. He felt like screaming just as Roslin had earlier, but he couldn’t bring himself to let it out. The pain would rip him to pieces if he let it escape. It still didn’t feel real, which helped him push it away so he wouldn’t collapse in on himself.
“I wish I could be that strong,” Link said, “I feel like I’ve failed in everything I was brought here to do. The shards are in the absolute worst hands possible. The castle is under the cult’s control. And we’ve lost the last member of the ruling family. What good am I if I can’t even protect the Potentate?”
“You are strong,” Impa said, “You just do not realize how strong yet. Set aside the pain and find your center. There is still much to do and Roslin will need you, now more than ever.”
Euless nodded, settling next to the Lieutenant, “She’s right. You have to shake it off for now. We’ll have time to bury Zelda later. Right now, we have to give her sacrifice meaning. We’ve got a while before we get where we’re going so, get some rest.”
Herne plopped down heavily on the other side of the Lieutenant, giving the younger man’s head a firm ruffle with his good hand.
“Don’t beat yourself up about this. It wasn’t your fault. From what I heard about the mission you just got back from, you did pretty damn good just getting out unscathed.” he said.
“Unscathed… yeah… but the Zora didn’t. Or the palace staff. And now Zelda,” Link said, “How many more people have to sacrifice themselves to ‘keep me safe’?”
“They believed in you. So instead of sulking, how ’bout you show the rest of us what it was they believed in?” Euless said but he didn’t speak with the purpose of insulting, even if it did sting a bit.
Link found it rather odd how so many of the team were so quick to dismiss what had happened. Maybe they were just coping better than he was. Roslin certainly wasn’t. He was in this strange place where he wasn’t sure how he should feel and it left him uneasy.
“Show everyone why Zelda believed in me. I wouldn’t even know where to start.” the Lieutenant said.
“Just get some rest, kid. You deserve a little down time.” Herne said.
Link nodded softly, finally feeling the fatigue catching up with him. He lifted a hand and felt over the wide gash in his armor. The pain was gone but the memory of it was not. He shuddered at the recollection of how it felt and pushed the thought away. His eyes slipped closed and he sighed. He wouldn’t be able to sleep, but at least he could relax.
The two and a half hours passed agonizingly slowly. Gradually, Roslin came out of her ‘trance’ if it could be called that. She wasn’t completely back to normal, but she was at least part of the way there. She was quiet and thoughtful. Link remained silent as well. He had so much running through his mind he could scarcely begin to articulate it. He hoped everyone back home was safe. Maybe Faron was small enough that Yates and his goons would ignore it for the time being. It was the first time he’d thought of home in quite a while. He’d been so distracted, nothing else could get through. Lilly. He hoped she was safe.
“Alright, we’re approaching the coordinates now,” Saito announced, “Slowing to a hundred twenty KPH, bearing north. Dunno who’s gonna hear it but, broadcasting IFF.”
Impa stood and moved to stand between the pilot and co-pilot, peering out the glass ahead of them. As they flew along slowly, transmitting their signal, nothing seemed to happen. They just passed through the clouds effortlessly.
“Please continue for the time being, Major.” Impa said.
“So, why exactly are we here?” Saito asked.
“This place is unique. It almost always possesses thick cloud cover without being completely overcast. There are extremely rare moments when the sky is completely clear or completely clouded, but almost all the time it is like this. The clouds provide excellent cover.” Impa explained.
“That’s great and all, but there’s such a thing as radar. Just because they can’t see us doesn’t mean they can’t detect us.” Satio said, still as skeptical as ever.
“True,” Impa replied gently in spite of the mild snark directed at her, “But there is a scattering effect here. It makes it far more difficult to get a definitive reading. It is why this was the ideal location.”
“Ideal location for what?” Saito asked as she turned to look back at Impa, expecting her to respond.
Instead, the radio did.
“Wingloft 1, we are reading your IFF signature. Please confirm your identity and all aboard.” said a voice no one found familiar except Impa, Roslin, and Link.
The woman piloting the shuttle blinked as the voice came through so easily and clearly.
“This is Major Saito. Transmitting idents for all aboard. We have Minister Roslin as well,” she said and paused for a moment, narrowing her eyes, “Who am I talking to?”
The information was broadcast and received before the voice responded, “Oh yes, I see. How rude of me. My name is Shad. I am preparing to receive you. Please stand by.”
Impa took the microphone and smiled softly, “It is good to hear your voice, Shad.”
“Ahh, Miss Impa! Wonderful to hear yours as well! And you have the Lieutenant with you also! Excellent! I had feared the worst listening during the attack. It pleases me greatly to know you are all safe. I will remove the camouflage. Maintain your bearing and speed please.”
He fell silent, no doubt operating something. The clouds before the shuttle parted, revealing a void in the cover. The air shimmered softly as whatever concealment in effect was removed, revealing a large island floating in the sky. Atop it sat trees, a small lake, and a monstrous structure, sacred in appearance and design. It housed numerous stained glass panes and was emblazoned with the royal crest. There were small houses dotting the open area around it, almost as if it were a tiny village of ancient, primitive build. The sight was breathtaking to say the least.
“What in the world…” said Saito breathlessly.
“I am providing your guidance system with a set flight path to bring you to the docking bay. Please engage your autopilot and allow it to bring you in,” Shad said, “And may I be the first to welcome you to Skyloft.”
Everyone aboard rose and peered out through the various windows they could reach. Roslin however, remained in her seat, stoic and quiet.
“How the hell did we not know about this place? It’s beautiful.” Euless said.
Link felt a grin tug at his lips, “Skyloft… the island the goddess Hylia sent into the heavens to protect humankind during the first great war for Hyrule… back before Hyrule was Hyrule. We’re looking at the home of the first tribe. This is where the knights originated. If I’m really descended from the line of the hero, then my ancestors lived here once. So did Zelda’s. We all descended from the people that lived here. This was our home.”
Impa turned to look out the side as they banked and sailed gracefully across the top of the island, passing within only a hundred meters or so of the sanctuary that featured prominently at the center.
“And so it will be again,” she said, “At least for a while. We have been busy expanding the island. Roslin felt it was prudent to prepare Skyloft for just such an emergency.”
The crew watched in stunned awe as they passed over the village, home to no one at the moment it seemed. It was so still, serene. Eventually, the green of the island surface gave way to the rocky underside, the shuttle drifting down towards the hanger they were being guided into. Two rows of lights extended out from the entry, held aloft by nothing it seemed. The shuttle eased into the spacious bay and settled into one of the many ‘parking spots’ it housed. There were other shuttles present, a dozen or so, seven of which looked identical to the one they saw destroyed only hours earlier. Perhaps this is where they kept them when they needed maintenance. The hanger doors slid shut and Shad’s voice returned.
“Safe landing I see. I’ve reactivated the camouflage. We should be invisible to all sensors.” he said.
As the group emerged from the shuttle, the owner of the voice approached, greeting them all with a warm smile. He seemed especially pleased to see Link.
“Good to see you made it out in once piece, Shad,” the Lieutenant said, “I was starting to worry when we were making our escape.”
“Oh no need to worry, sir. I wasn’t in the castle. I was here. I’ve always been here. This is my home. Very rarely do I leave.” Shad said with a friendly smile.
Impa chuckled as she watched Link’s expression turn to confusion.
“I believe the Lieutenant might need more of an explanation than that,” she said before turning to Link, “When Roslin brought you to see him before, you left the castle and came here. You did not realize you had left because that is the desired effect.”
Shad nodded happily, “Yes! The lift passes through a series of gates–portals if you will. Each one is in a different location across Hyrule. It’s meant to confuse and prevent tracking. As you pass through one gate, it closes behind you, and then the next one opens. There are three in total. Or at least… there were. Roslin ordered them destroyed during the attack, ‘the sages have fallen’ is the command. It is part of a security protocol she enacted. Now the only way to reach this place is to fly here and gain access like you did.”
“Well that kills any idea of using them to get back into the castle undetected.” Link said disappointedly.
Shad nodded, this time with a frown, “Yes, I’m afraid so. But better to cut off their access to us than not. Miss Roslin,” he said as he leaned to peer over Link’s shoulder, passing him to approach the lady, “I am so relieved you are unharmed. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Have you already brought them?” Roslin asked cryptically.
“Yes ma’am, they’re already here. I’m sure they are waiting to speak to you. And I’ve already begun work. It will be finished shortly. It is resting near the entrance and only needs to be moved into its final resting place.” Shad explained just as cryptically.
Roslin nodded, her voice quiet and thoughtful, “Good. Your efficiency, as always, is greatly appreciated. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll just go change into something a little less… sweaty.”
“Very good, First Minister.” Shad replied.
With that, Roslin turned and took her leave. Her flight suit was in shambles; wrinkled, charred, stained with blood, and torn in places. As she left, she paused and looked over her shoulder.
“Link, would you please join me? We need to talk. Everyone else… Shad will provide you with quarters and whatever medical attention you might need.” Roslin said.
Link nodded and moved to follow the Minister. Something about her posture and timbre suggested he shouldn’t ask questions but simply obey. She’d just suffered a terrible loss after all. The rest of the team was guided away no doubt to tend to their own needs. Roslin meanwhile walked with a purpose through the complex, reaching a locker room.
“Step onto the pad in the corner and it’ll remove your armor. That suit isn’t going to do you any good anymore. There’s fresh clothes in locker number four. Shower if you like. I’ll be next door doing the same.” the Minister said.
She pulled clothing from a locker with her name printed on it and vanished around the corner into the women’s shower. Link did as he was told, letting the pad and its various arms appearing out of the floor and walls remove his ruined suit. His uniform underneath had seen better days as well. It had been torn in places and had a few light blood stains, not to mention being soaked head to toe in sweat. The last eight hours had been pretty strenuous.
Once he was off the pad, he was at the locker Roslin pointed out for him. There was a uniform folded neatly inside, different from his usual one. It was still a Tri-State Defense Force garment, but it wasn’t standard issue. This was for a unique division, higher than special operations. He might have been surprised at the notion of there being a division higher than that, but given where he was, he thought there wasn’t anything that could surprise him anymore. It even had his name on it.