Chapter 31 – Assault Preparations

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An impromptu command center was established deep within the complex. A holographic table similar to the one from the palace had been provided. It displayed all the current intelligence they had regarding the mountain fortress. It didn’t look good. The dark ships that had first chased the team back to base from the ocean now held the palace, circling slowly. And there were ten of them now on a tight patrol around the facility. There were even more circling wider.

Scans showed the palace’s defense barrier was back in place and far stronger than it was rated for. They had augmented it somehow. Likely Yates and his new-found power were to blame. Beyond the obvious assumptions that could be extrapolated, there was the underlying fear of the unknown, what they couldn’t predict would happen or what would get thrown at them.

“We can assume the weapons systems have all been repaired, and the railgun is now under their control. It’s gonna be a hard fight just to get in,” Roslin said, “Any large scale assault is going to suffer heavily. A small scale assault will be snuffed out before it gets past the first line of sentries. Emergency jump is out of the question since we can’t pinpoint where we exit the jump accurately enough. We could end up inside the rock face, or overshoot. Hell we could end up crashing into the barrier itself.”

The holographic display shifted, zooming in to show a transparent schematic of the palace and the military facility beneath it. A number of statistics and readings flowed past in a steady scroll just slow enough to be legible.

“And that’s only half the battle,” Roslin continued, “Thanks to Shad, we have a partial readout of the palace’s internal sensors. They’ve amassed quite a lot of troops, our own people and cultists alike. Seems the longer you stay under Yates’ control, the less… feral… you become. He’s taking advantage of their recovering skills and knowledge. Soon, they’ll notice we’re watching them and shut us out completely. We can assume that Yates is either in the control room or the throne room, likely letting whatever transformation he’s after take place. Getting to him is going to be difficult at best. Suggestions?”

The woman looked around the room. Euless’ team was present, as was Link, Impa, Shad, and Rauru. Nadia and a handful of support staff had been invited to join them. Everyone remained quite silent, trying to puzzle their way through this one. Saito was the first to speak up.

“A frontal assault would be suicide, they’re ready for that. So why don’t we just go for that?” the Major asked.

The Potentate raised an eyebrow at the younger lady, “I think you just answered your own question. Care to explain your reasoning?”

Saito nodded, stood, and moved to the table. She began programming in a few new factors to illustrate her idea.

“Like I say, they’re expecting a full on frontal assault. So we give it to them,” she said, “We push in with a huge force here on the south side. It’ll draw their attention there. As soon as they’ve committed enough of their forces to stop us, we turn and pull away, headed west. It’ll look like we’re suddenly realizing how overwhelmed we are and we’re running away. If Yates is the sadistic bastard I think he is, he’ll have them stay on us. It’ll create an opening in their defenses and we can get a handful of shuttles in close. They fly in low, under the minimum angle of the railgun, and land half a click out from the barrier. There are plenty of access points we can force our way through. They can’t block all of them off.”

Roslin lifted a hand to her chin, considering the idea carefully, “Use the frontal assault as a distraction. I’m glad to see you’re not thinking a suicidal it originally sounded. It’s a thought, but even if they can’t block off access, we’re still fighting our way through legions of our own soldiers. They’ll have us trapped and killed before we could even reach the inner structer of the mountain. No, I can’t authorize that.”

Euless chimed in, “What if that’s what we want? To get caught? Yates wouldn’t dare let you or Link be killed without having a chance to gloat. He’d have you brought to him so he could either watch or do the job himself.”

“Which puts us in the rather unpleasant place of being captured for the purpose of being executed,” Roslin replied, “That trick may work in the movies but he’s too smart for that. He’ll see that coming a mile away. No, we need to get inside undetected, sabotage their defenses, and let our people in to join the fight. Now how do we do that?”

Everyone fell silent again. It was a struggle to come up with a solution that didn’t end in crashing the command carrier into the mountain. A false surrender was as unlikely to work as feigning allowing themselves to be captured. They needed to genuinely get in and fight. Link sighed, fidgeting with the gold band around his wrist. It didn’t bother him, but it was a nice distraction. It was a new gadget for him to play with and he was somewhat fixated on it. As he ran his fingers over the smooth bracelet used to call his armor into use. There was something weighing on his mind.

“I’m sorry, I’m having trouble focusing. I’m still stuck on how the hell Yates managed to get his hands on the shards. It was like we just handed them to him.” the Lieutenant said in frustration.

Perhaps a diversion was needed. Roslin allowed it, thinking maybe it could lead somewhere interesting. Shad lifted a hand, looking perhaps a little too excited to answer.

“Yes! I’ve been doing a great deal of research into how he performed such a feat! From what I’ve gleaned from the sensor logs, somehow, the shards being in such close proximity to one another created a strong enough signature that he could detect them, perhaps on a very fundamental level. How he could open a rift as he did, I’m still puzzled by.” the young man said.

Rauru gave his apprentice a soft pat on the shoulder, ready to fill in the gaps in his knowledge, “It is the nature of the Triforce. The three pieces are drawn to one another, not strongly enough to be overtly noticed, but they are compelled to move towards one another. So too are shards of any one piece attracted to one another, much more strongly so they can reassemble. Our containment field kept them apart to prevent exactly what Shad has theorized. It would seem they only need to be near one another to make their presence felt by anyone sensitive to it. Yates was able to sense their presence, likely before any of us knew we should begin gathering them.”

Roslin nodded, “I reached the same conclusion myself. The cult could very well have helped him train and hone such a skill. It would look too conspicuous if he went out collecting them himself, so he had us do the dirty work. The radiation it gave off, reanimating the dead, taking over the minds of the healthy–he was manipulating the shards from a distance all so he could create chaos, throw us off balance, maybe even stack the odds in his favor.”

“Exactly, yes,” Rauru stepped in, tapping away on the holographic table to bring up an illustration of the three pieces of the Triforce, one of them broken into smaller fragments, “It would ensure we would detect them and serve his desire to destabilize the nation.”

The older fellow tapped away on the console again. The fragments of the third piece moved to take up their respective positions across the map, sending out waves to illustrate their effect. It immediately became clear just how wide an area that could have been plunged into chaos had they not been collected.

“With the shards scattered across the land, he could have left them there and the whole of Hyrule would have descended into anarchy at his whim.” Raru said.

Link frowned, “So… collecting them was the only option we had. Still doesn’t explain how he reached through a hole in space and just snatched them.”

Rauru ambled slowly over to the Lieutenant, taking the younger man’s left hand and holding it between them. He ran his fingers over the triangular mark on the back of Link’s palm thoughtfully as he spoke.

“This is a mark given to those born into the line of the hero, as well as the other two lines they are intertwined with,” the older fellow explained, “It is more than simply pigment in the skin. It is an imprint of the Triforce, the piece that best personifies you. If you do not carry that piece within you as Lady Zelda here has long preferred-“

Roslin cleared her throat at the use of ‘Lady Zelda’, showing her contempt for titles.

“I’d prefer if you didn’t say that. Minister Roslin is just fine for now, if you don’t mind.” she said.

Rauru nodded apologetically.

“Yes, of course, Minister,” he said before resuming, “If you do not carry the piece itself within you, the mark can point you to it, even draw the piece to you. Yates was raised by the Cult of Gannon, a fanatical group of known wizards practicing the dark arts. You recall what happened the night your friend was attacked, yes? She vanished into the ground?”

Link nodded, not enjoying recalling that night, “Yeah, like the shadows had just swallowed her up. In fact, it did look a lot like what Yates did to collect all the shards from the containment field.”

The Lieutenant simply let Rauru’s knowledge of the night of Lilly’s abduction slide. No doubt he and Shad had gone over the recorded data countless times.

“That was a powerful spell, one that manipulates space and time and can create a tunnel through it to a different point, or simply lead to an artificially created pocket. Yates no doubt was taught a similar technique which–combined with his ability to sense the shards–allowed him to reach through with his magic and take them. Not even our containment field or camouflage could keep him out,” The older fellow said as he released Link’s hand and gripped the Lieutenant’s shoulder gently, “There was nothing any of us could have done to stop him. We all played right into his hands.”

“The cult’s been planning this for years, decades, maybe even longer,” Shad interjected, “It is entirely likely that the attack on your friend was orchestrated specifically to draw you into the fight. If they failed to kill you, then they would know where you are and that the defense force would bring you aboard to hunt for the shards. If they had successfully killed you, then they would have two pieces of the Triforce and no hero to stop them. Either way, they would get exactly what they want. They are playing an enormous game shrouded in darkness and shadow. Misdirection seems to be their favorite tool.”

“Misdirection is their favorite tool,” Link repeated slowly, lost quietly in thought for a moment, “They’re probably so deeply entrenched in the concept that they would see through any distraction we throw at them.”

Roslin nodded, “Probably, but they’re also extremely arrogant, to the point of overconfidence. We can use that against them.”

The Lieutenant nodded, still feeling somewhat discouraged. He felt like he had been nothing but a pawn in their game. He went over all the new information again and again, obsessing over one singular detail as it bubbled up time and time again.

“The containment field couldn’t stop Yates from using his magic to reach right through.” Link said.

“There’s no point in kicking yourself about it, my boy. It is in the past and we need to look forward.” Rauru tried to console him.

“No… that’s not what I’m getting at. Yates’ magic circumvented the containment field,” Link said as his voice rose, the young man coming upon an idea that just might give them their way in, “Shad, do we still have eyes in the armories or storage rooms?”

The bespectacled fellow blinked in confusion but didn’t question the new turn the conversation had taken, “Yes, I believe we do have sensors available in a portion of armory and storage.”

He tapped commands into the console to determine a more accurate answer to the question and illustrate the results for everyone to see.

Link leaned forward against the holographic projector, beginning to hatch a rather wild plan, “How many of them have mobile arsenal platforms you can access?”

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