Chapter 32 – Leap of Faith

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“Let’s go people! Operations commence in fifteen! I want everything checked, double checked, and locked down!” Euless barked through the comms.

He stood over a large console showing him readouts of all sorts. The fleet–what of it they had managed to secure–was in decent shape, but a few lesser ships were hurting badly. Those would need to take a back seat on the assault. He was so very unused to being in command to this extent. To their credit, the crew was performing above and beyond expectation.

“How are we looking, commander?” asked a combat ready Roslin.

She entered the control room–smaller than the palace’s–wearing the same armor she had been seen in at her public address. She had meant what she said. The outfit had not been just for show. It was intend to be used. Impa followed closely behind. The Sheikah woman had donned simple protective gear, nothing terribly formidable. It looked akin to the uniforms the troops wore under their armor. Euless turned to look back at the Potentate as she entered, trying not to look exasperated.

“Tying up a few loose ends. The fleet looks like it might be able to pull off this little trick, but not without suffering heavy damage and casualties,” the commander said, “Unless we can find a better way to punch through those cruisers of theirs-“

“That contingency has been taken into consideration. I’m sorry Commander, but I’m still playing this awful close to the chest. I want Yates seeing as little of this coming as we can manage. He knows we’re out to get him, and I would hope that’s all he knows.”

Euless nodded, looking over to Herne, his arm still in a sling, “I think I speak for both of us when I say how badly we both would like to come with you, dole out the hurt ourselves. We owe that bastard a firm kick in the teeth… and few other choice spots.”

The Commander’s eye had been mended thanks to the miracle workings of Shad and Rauru, but it wasn’t enough to get him out from behind the console. He had to be a leader after all. Herne’s case was a little more complex. His injury was for the most part healed, but there was concern of putting stress on the joint. At least, that’s what he had been told.

The Potentate nodded, moving to stand by his side, giving his shoulder a pat, “Believe me, I’d very much like to have you both there with us. But we need you both here. You’re two of the best strategists we’ve got right now. If this goes badly sideways, Euless, you are to assume permanent command of the fleet. Pull them out of the theater and retreat to a safe location. Save as many people as you can.”

It was an unpleasant thought, but he didn’t argue. He just nodded and stepped aside to let Roslin take command one last time before the mission began. The woman gazed over the displays and readouts, taking note of the others at their consoles stopping and turning their attention towards her. Time for another inspiring speech it seemed. This one would have to be brief.

“It’s almost time. The fleet is almost ready. You all know the part you have to play. Do your job, do it well, and we’ll come out on top. You’ve trusted me this far, you only have to go a little further,” she said and paused for a moment, needing to steel herself in spite of her years of training to command, “Good hunting, and may the Goddesses watch over us all.”

Her staff immediately turned back to the task at hand. Every ship in the fleet acknowledged her and began moving into formation. Orders were being given and followed, soldiers readied their weapons, defenses were prepared; the battle was close.

“All units report ready, ma’am. The fleet is go on your mark.” Euless said.

Roslin nodded and placed a palm on top of the holographic projector. It immediately began scanning the hand for biometric identification.

“Computer, recognize Zelda Terentia Roslin, authorization Tango Five Delta Gamma.” she said before the computer chimed its confirmation.

She was using a different clearance code from before, likely because she wasn’t posing as ‘First Minister Roslin’ anymore.

“Authorization recognized. Please state request.” replied the artificial voice.

“Transfer all command codes and access to General Sebastian Euless,” Roslin said, “Effective immediately.”

The Commander paused and blinked. He turned to look at the others about him, finding them staring back at him, offering nods of congratulations and confidence.

“General!?” Euless asked breathlessly.

Roslin nodded, “Unfortunately the promotion carries more ceremony than we can afford right now. You’ll have to wait until after the Op to have cake and ice cream. Skyloft is yours, General. If I don’t make it back, Hyrule is yours to protect. Do so as you always have.”

Recalling Ilia’s last words carried a bittersweet note, one that she intended to impress upon Euless with his new station. The soldier before her hardened his expression, snapped to attention and saluted her. Herne followed suit, careful not to aggravate his bad arm.

“Good hunting, ma’am.” the General said.

Roslin returned the salute. It felt right doing so.

“Good hunting, General.” she said before she lowered her hand and turned to leave, her bodyguard keeping close.

“Ma’am, I believe it is time we retrieved the Lieutenant. As much as he deserves all the time he needs, I’m afraid the mission cannot wait any longer.” Impa said.

The Potentate nodded, turning to head down the corridor that would lead them up to the surface. The temple above opened before them as the climbed the stairs into its grand hall. The corridor to the old holding chamber for the Master Sword passed swiftly and the two women arrived in the tomb of the hero’s line. Carefully and respectfully they navigated it, finding the Lieutenant out of his armor, kneeling next to his brother’s sarcophagus.

He was speaking quietly in the hopes that Colin could hear him. Even if he couldn’t, it was still of some comfort to the young man.

“I don’t know how I would have gotten here if it wasn’t for you. Every fiber of my being tells me you should be wearing this suit, carrying this sword… and I should be in that stone box. When this is over, I’ll bring Lilly here so she and her dad can say goodbye properly. They deserve that much. You deserve that much,” Link said and let out a quiet sigh.

He remained silent for a brief moment before the ridiculousness of that statement hit him. A strange, gentle laugh escaped him.

“What am I saying? You two deserve so much more than that,” he said as he turned mournful and dropped his head, fighting to keep his composure, “I’m so sorry for what I said the night you left. I was angry and stupid. I felt sick after it was said. Sure, everyone around here calls me ‘the Hero of Hyrule’ just like you kept saying I was… just like I threw in your face… but if I am the hero everyone expects me to be, it’s only because you were my hero first.”

Link felt silent again. The quiet permitted him to hear the footsteps approaching. They were coming to retrieve him. He had to wrap things up.

“I love you, Colin. I miss you. You were the best brother anyone could ever have. And I’m gonna go make you proud.” he said.

Roslin and Impa stood a good ways back, giving him some privacy as he finished. Eventually, they couldn’t wait any longer.

“It’s time, Link.” Roslin said.

He nodded, “I’m ready.”

The Lieutenant climbed to his feet and turned about to face his Potentate. He squeezed the gold band around his left wrist, summoning forth his armor. The pale green light he had become used to surrounded him before the suit emerged. The mark on his left palm shimmered as it appeared through the leather covering his hand.

“You know I can’t ask you to do this,” Roslin said, “I can’t even bring myself to order you. If you have any doubts, any reason to hang back-“

“Let’s go take back Hyrule.” Link replied, putting an end to any uncertainty she might have wanted to convey.

Roslin allowed herself a hint of a smirk and turned to depart, Link and Impa in tow. The path took them back through the great hall, but not down the stairs into the facility beneath. Instead, they pushed open the heavy doors of the temple and joined the teams waiting for them outside. Four large squares of grey sat atop the grass, a host of mechanical and electrical components nested underneath each. A web of cables connected them all to a control console set up just a few meters away operated by Shad.

“We are almost ready. Just running through the final checks now. All teams are present and accounted for,” the young keeper of the archive said, “I feel I must say that I’ve never operated this equipment in this way. I cannot guarantee absolutely perfect execution.”

Roslin nodded as she and those with her joined the other two waiting for them, Saito and Bruno, “I know you’ll do your best to give us a smooth ride. In your own time, Shad.”

“Yes ma’am… though, I feel I must say something else. I must express my concern that you insist on leading this mission personally. The regulations on such matters are quite clear.” the young man said.

Roslin turned her head back to face him, not necessarily angry at him but irritated that ‘regulations’ were getting in the way of her doing what she knew was right.

“And I’m the bloody queen so I say screw the regs this time. If I’m sending people on a mission like this, I’m going to fight right alongside them. And if necessary, die alongside them,” Roslin said, “Your concern is noted and appreciated. Finish your preparations, please.”

Shad nodded, trembling just a bit. It wasn’t often Roslin threw her weight around in such a manner, and it intimidated him just a bit. Link chuckled quietly, trying to keep his reaction to the scene as hidden as best he could. It didn’t go unnoticed. The woman eyed him carefully, expecting an explanation.

“Sorry, ma’am. The ‘I’m the bloody queen’ line… I liked that.” the Lieutenant said.

“Well don’t get used to it,” Roslin shot back, “If I can help it, it’ll be the last time I let that word pass my lips. From here on out, I’m not your Potentate, I’m not your First Minister, I’m your commanding officer. You will treat me as such. That goes for all of you. Do not let my rank or title get in the way of this mission. Understood?”

Everyone present offered her a nod in the affirmative.

“Yes ma’am.” they all answered.

“Good. Team Farore, your objective is to reach weapons control. Team Nayru, get to the shield generators. Team Din, I don’t care what you have to do, get to the Railgun Control Room and secure it. I will head up team Hylia, and we will be heading for central command. We are all accompanied with two Sheikah warriors. They will provide stealth and support. The cult isn’t the only group that knows a thing or two about magic. The Sheikah personify the shadows and they’ve learned how to become them. Not even our palace sensors can detect a Sheikah unless they want to be seen. They will keep all four teams concealed until each reaches their objective.” Roslin explained.

She paused, giving the group a chance to absorb it all. Everyone seemed to accept the orders so far.

“Do not break cover under any circumstances until you have secured your target,” Roslin continued, “We’re all outfitted with remote infiltration units. Attach it to any console in the control room you’re securing and it will take over and isolate that room from the rest of the grid. Once we can secure central command, it will network those rooms together and Shad will begin trying to hack the rest of the way into the palace. He’ll be giving us distractions along the way to keep the heat off of us. Further instructions will be provided under filename Terentia-1. Once you reach your target and it is secure, open that file. Given whatever situation you are presented with, it will provide you with orders. Follow those orders to the letter.”

The teams all looked at one another, those who were not Sheikah suddenly feeling just a hint of hesitation. Orders to be opened in-mission were usually a bad sign. The six Sheikah accompanying the other three teams seemed unaffected. They simply lifted a hand, rest it against their other shoulder, and bowed softly to Roslin.

Saito meanwhile felt a little uneasy hearing what the new support was for, looking over her team. Unless her math was wrong, they weren’t quite ready to go.

“Forgive me, ma’am but… looks like we’ve only got one Sheikah for our team. Is there another one on the way?” the Major asked.

Roslin shook her head as she turned to face the other lady, “No, we already have two.”

Saito furrowed her brow in confusion, wondering if maybe the second stealth unit was already hiding, ready to pop out for all to see as some demonstration of their abilities.

“We do?” she asked.

“I’m the other Sheikah.” Roslin said.

She pressed a smooth, flat gem of dark violet on the back of her left palm, centered inside the triangle of gold found there. Immediately, the pristine opalescent hue shimmered and faded to a dark, shadowy purple. The royal crest was consumed by the color, but its shape remained visible. In its place, in a dull grey-ish green, appeared an eye with a single teardrop extending down from its center. Three triangular eyelashes rose up from the top. It was the symbol of the Sheikah, the same one the other six already in armor carried. It was quite the little revelation.

“Of course… it only makes sense.” Link said, visibly impressed.

Roslin offered no sign that she was pleased with herself. She was all business at this point. Impa stepped away a short distance and pressed her palms together before her. A pale violet light rose up across her from the ground. A smooth, seamless covering appeared across her feet and legs, hugging very tightly to her form. The same strange metal–appearing to flex and bend just as easily as the human form under it–consumed the woman. The mark of her tribe appeared across her chest and her pure white hair was swallowed up by the back of her helmet. She had no obvious weapons; no blades, guns, or explosives. She appeared to be completely unarmed, as did the others.

Saito looked between the two darkly clad figures and nodded lightly, “Okay, I have to admit, that’s pretty damn cool.”

“I’m glad you approve, Major,” Roslin said and turned back to the rest of the teams, “Remember… secure your target. Do not give it up without a fight. Hold it for as long as you can. If we lose any one of those rooms, the fight is over. Shad will be monitoring once you assume control. He will help you out however he can. Backup will only be provided if and when it is possible. Do not count on it. Any questions?”

One of the three team leaders raised his hand, “Have we heard from any of the other tribes?”

Roslin tensed softly. She knew someone would ask.

“No. We haven’t. We’re still hoping to hear from them, but at this point, we have to assume we’re alone in this fight. It’s a mess of our own making. We can’t expect others to help us clean it up,” she explained and paused, looking across the group to address them all, “However this ends, it ends today. Hyrule will not fall. I swear on my life it won’t.”

It was a constant battle, this morale game. Still, she seemed to be doing well. The teams all dropped any visible sign of uneasiness, what little there was. With that, she turned back to Shad, wanting to know the status of the gear around them.

“Everything checks out. You’re clear to board the platforms. I’ve got four different targets selected in the palace. Sensors show there isn’t anyone around and I’ve taken the liberty of locking the doors to those rooms. There are other doors around them that I’ve locked into different patters of behavior. They should read all of this as a series of malfunctions. I highly recommend you engage your stealth measures once you’re on the pads before we begin. It might provide further protection.”

Roslin nodded, turning around again to climb onto one of the metal platforms, “You heard the man, let’s mount up. Seal your armor and synchronize your defense screens with Shad’s console. He’ll modulate as needed. I don’t want any problems.”

Shad typed away furiously at his console, trying to maintain his composure, “Remember, this is untested. In theory, the defense screens should protect you from the rigors of travel through compressed dimensional space. I will load you into storage, then bring you back. I will keep an eye on all your vitals from here and judge if anyone is unfit to proceed upon arrival.”

All four teams piled onto the four platforms, sealing their suits as ordered. Roslin and Impa closed their helmets, leaving only a narrow slit across their eyes transparent, completing the look of a stealth agent. Unlike the Sheikah, the rest of the soldiers could see one another’s faces easily, Link as well, flexing his fingers as the metal gauntlets covered his leather gloves. Thankfully he wouldn’t need to use those all the time.

“All units report ready.” Roslin said, her voice coming through the radio clearly.

The members of each team called back their status as either ‘ready’, ‘go’, or ‘green’ depending on how they had been trained. With everyone sealed up and prepared, the Potentate gave the young man at the console a nod.

Shad tapped away on his controls, watching as all four teams appeared on the displays along with their readouts.

“I’m receiving signals from everyone. I’m modulating your defense screens now. Remember, there will be some disorientation while in transit. That is normal. If you start to feel queasy at all, close your eyes and breathe deep and slow. You should only be out of dimensional alignment for ten to twenty seconds. I’ll be triggering about twelve different pads throughout the palace but only four will actually bring anything in. Hopefully they’ll see it as just part of the malfunction.” he explained.

Shad made the final calculations and paused, his hands trembling. This had never been done before. He certainly didn’t want to be responsible for the entire offensive failing, let alone the death of the most important figure in the country. Roslin could see his disquiet and engaged in the battle for morale one more time.

“Easy… just breathe,” she said, “Either it works and we arrive just fine, or we don’t. It’s as simple as that.”

Shad nodded and took a breath as he braced himself, “Engage stealth fields.”

Impa and Roslin looked to one another, nodding. Both closed their eyes and lifted their hands as if to pray, one hand slightly higher than the other. All but two fingers on a single hand were curled tightly, the two remaining standing straight as if to touch the spot just between their eyes. They uttered strange words only Link recognized. The discussion of the power of Ancient Hylian earlier was proving slightly more prophetic than he anticipated.

A pale violet aura began to form around them. Impa shifted silently around behind Link, Saito, and Bruno, somehow able to tell where they were without seeing. The aura they created began to strengthen, radiating off them in waves of shadowy flame that consumed nothing as it burned. The ‘fire’ grew, the flames drawn to one another, reaching out until they connected between the two Sheikah. From there a dark shadow spread, falling over the three between them. All five figures faded out of existence, suddenly becoming seemingly insubstantial. The other three teams were put through similar rituals until all four pads appeared to be empty. And yet the shadows of those who stood there could still be seen, though muted softly.

“From this point forward, I’m ordering not just radio silence, but complete silence. Any noise will give us away. Just because we’re invisible doesn’t mean we can’t be attacked. Upon arrival, minimize your power signatures as much as possible.” Roslin ordered.

Impa nodded, “We are shadows… and shadows do not speak.”

Shad cleared his throat, looking over the readouts, impressed that he could still detect them through the field the Sheikah had generated, “We’re ready. Powering platforms now. Transmission in ten seconds. Remember to inhale sharply as transmission begins and then exhale as soon as you arrive.”

“Thank you, Shad. You are a credit to your line. It was an honor serving with you.” Roslin said.

She lifted a hand to salute him, the display granting him a view of the gesture. He returned the salute nervously. It would be inappropriate not to. A tightness formed in his stomach hearing her sound as though she didn’t plan on coming back.

“The honor was mine, ma’am,” Shad replied, “Transmission in five, four, three, sharp inhale now, one, energizing!”

He watched with an understandable degree of trepidation as the four pads began to illuminate in a brilliant blue, the power flowing through them arching about, running up between the occupants of each platform. It offered a brief glimpse of their silhouettes as it powered up. The light from below rose into a square column around them, shining brighter with every passing second. It remained almost unbearably bright until, with four pops and flashes, the pads died down and they were well and truly empty again.

Shad stood there, breathless. He wouldn’t know if they had survived until they arrived and radioed back. The weight of what he had just done crushed in on him.

“Good luck… your majesty…” he whispered.

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