Chapter 33 – We Are the Shadows

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The void between point of origin and destination was confusing and disorienting, just as they had been warned. Link looked about, holding his breath, to find a vacant white field all around him, dotted with the others on his team as well as the other three teams. They floated helplessly in the nothingness they were cast into. This was where their weapons and equipment were sent while ‘in transit’.

They weren’t actually moving. They felt as though they were just hovering in place. This was a holding point. Anything sent here by one command would stay put until someone pulled it back out somewhere else by a different command. The unsettling nature of the world around Link brought him back to the dive from his previous mission. An unsettling tingle began to spread across his extremities, developing into a mild numbness. The sensation of stretching followed, seeping in across his arms and legs, then his stomach and neck. It was a side effect he had been warned about. He knew it wasn’t actually happening but the mind had fascinating abilities to trick itself.

The Lieutenant began to panic mentally, trying desperately to control himself. He wasn’t doing a terribly good job of hiding his anxiety. Roslin saw his discomfort and reached out, gripping his arm tightly.

“Hey!” she called out to Link, “Calm down! Deep breath! Count to ten and we’re out!”

Her voice reached into his mind. The stones–she still planned to use the telepathic stones; just like when he was diving. But, that was a very different voice then. This one was less soothing and graceful. Maybe she was just caught up in the moment and was staving off the same panic as he was.

“I’m… I’m trying… it’s… it’s like the dive. There’s no up, no down. No top. No bottom.” Link replied in a moderately panicked voice.

He was fighting to stay in control, but failing. When Roslin saw her usual approach wasn’t helping, she loosened her grip lightly.

“Link… Listen to me. We’re almost through. Just a bit longer. I’m right here with you.” she said in a softer voice.

The Lieutenant huffed hard for breath, but began to ease the heaving of his chest. He slowed his struggles and looked to the woman holding his arm. She was staring back into his eyes. He could see her chest rising and falling faster than a restful pace. She was fighting it too. Weren’t they supposed to hold their breath? He began to settle somewhat, finding the others going through similar discomfort. Shivers and writhes claimed everyone as if they were cold or felt bugs crawling all over them. The void was a very unhappy place to be.

Link composed himself as best he could, exhaled, then breathed in deep again. He did as he was told, closed his eyes, and counted to ten slowly in his mind. They wouldn’t be here long. The timer on his HUD counted down unseen, reaching past the lower limit of their stay as he closed in on zero himself. The tingling suddenly strengthened, bringing warmth with it as a pulling sensation from nowhere specific claimed him.

The empty pad on the floor of one of the armories buzzed to life, creating a column of light before five ghostly figures were dragged out of the void between dimensions and dropped perfectly on their feet. The light faded and the room fell dark, appearing to be just as unoccupied as it had been before. To the unwitting observer, all that populated the storage room were crates and containers of equipment.

For an untested procedure, the first people transported by way of dimensionally shifted equipment delivery seemed to be a complete success. Link panted as he stumbled off the pad, collecting himself quickly. The others had similar dizziness to overcome, but it passed swiftly. It was fortunate that the effects passed so quickly. They didn’t have much time to gather their wits.

The sound of voices and metal clanging heavily on the door had a rather sobering effect. Roslin looked to the other four, able to see only transparent images of them through the effect of their stealth. Without speaking a word, she ordered everyone to the extreme sides of the room with a silent and swift gesture. The five split into two groups and dove behind whatever crates they could fit behind as the doors were forced open. They didn’t want to take the chance that someone might be able to see through the Sheikah enchantment.

“Get in there and check the pad! Scanner says it was triggered!” called out an angry but otherwise very normal sounding voice.

Light shined in from the hall before the room was properly illuminated. Several soldiers shoved themselves in, formerly royal guard from the look of their uniforms. A darkness filled their eyes that couldn’t be seen so much as felt. Yates had a firm hold on them.

“I’m not reading anything now sir. It’s powered down. Looks like it’s a false alarm like the others.” said one of the soldiers.

“Dammit! Ever since we started trying to modify the network, it’s just been one problem after another! It’s a damn good thing it’s only the secondary systems acting up. Alright, c’mon, let’s go. There are more pressing matters than glitching equipment pads.” said the commander of the unit.

He motioned for the rest of the men to follow him back out and the room went dark, illuminated only by the light from the hall. The door couldn’t close on its own again after being forced open. Fortunate.

Quietly and carefully, the five hidden intruders stood and moved back to the center of the room. With great care, they approached the exit and peered out into the hall. There was activity, but not much. It seemed the forces available were spread fairly thin as they chased down every glitch and malfunction that cropped up. Shad was doing a damn fine job.

Sensing they had a break in the action, Roslin moved back to the pad and motioned to the group to begin breaking it down. The engineers who designed it likely didn’t have this sort of use in mind for the device, but it would get the job done. After it was disassembled into its few ‘field components’, the pieces were split between everyone in the group, sent into the compressed space all their gear was stored. Their plan called for having access to it again later.

Saito then removed a black, fist-sized, egg-shaped device and set it down where the pad had been. A few button presses followed and she gestured for the group to move quickly out of the way. Again the unit peered into the hall, seeing no one immediately present. The team hurried into the corridor and pressed their backs against the wall to one side of the door. A high pitch whine filled the room they left before a powerful explosion shook the walls. The lights flickered and smoke filled the hallway as an alarm began to sound. Several more explosions, seemingly at random, sent tremors through the palace, originating elsewhere. It very much felt like some sort of attack, eliciting the sort of response expected. Soldiers poured into the hall, slowing down as they approached the smoking doorway.

The storage room was devastated. Wires hung and showered sparks. Crates and containers were scattered about, charred, fractured, or even melted. A dark black circle had been burned onto the ground showing the blast’s point of origin. A voice, enormously angry, screamed through the headset of the officer commanding the troops responding.

“What the hell was that!? Report!” bellowed someone far higher rank than the officer.

The commander winced and pulled his headset away from his ear as the voice deafened him.

“We’re investigating now, sir. We had reports of a mobile armory pad activating here earlier. Nothing came through. We thought it was just a glitch. Looks like it might have overloaded.” he answered.

“I want that entire room searched and scanned!” roared the far away voice, likely Yates, if he was still Yates, “Thoroughly! Any sort of sensor sweep you can perform, do it! I’m sending acolytes to conduct their own searches! She’s up to something! I know it!”

“Yes sir. We’ll get on it right away.” the commander replied.

The voice on the headset softened, but only in volume. He likely turned to scream in a different direction.

“I want all network connections to the outside world cut off! Immediately!” Yates shouted.

As the soldiers did as they were ordered, Roslin began to inch her way down the wall, keeping well clear of the men conducting their scans. Impa motioned for the others to follow and they edged down away from the group. With the lights flickering about, there was plenty of shadow to mask what hints of evidence their presence created. Even with so much cover, they took no chances and moved as carefully and quietly as all the activity would allow.

The going was rather slow. The team was unable to use the lifts. To do so risked bumping into whoever activated it, or having them appear to activate on their own. That would draw attention. The stairs were the only method they could use, and with the palace on high alert, they were occupied by soldiers and cultists shuffling about. No doubt the other three teams were having similar issues. As the five made their way along, the flickering lights and alarms all died completely. The halls went dark and silent. Then, illumination returned. It didn’t flicker. It didn’t buzz. The alarms had faded as well.

The team froze in place against the wall. The network had been severed. Shad’s influence had been completely removed. They were on their own now.

Impa shared silent hand gestures with Roslin, the two of them no doubt having an abbreviated conversation in sign language. When they had decided what to do, Roslin turned to the other three and motioned for them to follow Impa’s lead. The Potentate would be at the back covering them from behind. The pace had slowed to an absolute crawl at this point. The team moved along only a few steps at a time, cautious and patient as they waited for openings to move without being seen. If only the lights had kept failing. A time or two they held their breath fearing a passing cultist or soldier had heard them or seen their shadow move. Luck it seemed was on their side.

One of the heavy pairs of doors leading to the control room welled up before them after an hour’s worth of careful movement. They were sealed shut. Either they would have to blow the doors open, or they just weren’t getting in it seemed. Saito and Bruno had prepared for this very eventuality, remembering how they had made their exit when last they were here. They retrieved explosives from their hidden stash, ready to place and detonate them. Roslin stopped them, gesturing for them to stand back. She then broke silence, whispering only just loud enough to be heard by her teammates.

“Wait out here. Impa and I will investigate. Whatever you do, do not make a sound and hold perfectly still when anyone walks by.” Roslin hissed quietly.

It was a mystifying order but they didn’t question their Potentate. The two Sheikah turned and stood in front of the doors. Impa nodded to Roslin and they swiftly changed postures, crouching as if ready to spring into a great leap forward. Their legs uncoiled and they lunged towards the door, but before they could even get within half a meter of it, they vanished in a thin veil of dark violet smoke. An almost inaudible ‘puff’ sound accompanied their mystical trick.

The three remaining stared at one another, thinking maybe one of the other two would know what they had just witnessed. Saito and Bruno balked at Link who just shrugged back at them. He didn’t know such an ability existed. Hopefully they would survive to ask about it, and maybe learn how to pull it off themselves. The power to ‘blink’ through a door or wall would be terribly useful, and a lot less destructive than a concussion grenade.

Silence came from behind the blast doors and several minutes passed before the sounds of commotion could be heard. They were quiet and abrupt, as if being muffled by something, or someone. When everything fell quiet again, the blast doors slid open and there stood both Impa and Roslin, no longer cloaked in their shadowy invisibility. A few splatters of blood tinged their dark armor and several dead lay behind them. Saito, Bruno, and Link hurried in through the open doorway and watched as it sealed shut behind them. They paused as their own stealth wore off, quietly amazed and horrified with what greeted them.

“Ma’am,” Saito said, “Did you and Impa-“

“Kill them?” Roslin asked, “Yes, we did. We have no guarantee we can undo what Yates has done, and we don’t have time to take prisoners.”

Saito shook her head, “No, no… I understand that… it’s them or the kingdom. I was going to ask, did you and Impa just… jump through the door!?”

Roslin simply smirked quietly. Impa offered the commander a slight nod of the head before moving to one of the consoles in the control room.

“It is an old technique. It only works if you know exactly where you’re going. Usually line of sight is required, and very much preferred. It can be very dangerous if you do not. And it is only good for relatively short distances, a few meters at best.” Impa explained.

“I hate to break up a nice conversation but we’ve got work to do. Room is secured, time to break out the gear.” Roslin said.

Impa frowned as she looked over the readings and displays. The scene was grim.

“Commander, the fleet has already moved into theater and begun their attack. They are taking heavy fire. We took too long getting into position. We need to take control of the situation, now.” the Sheikah woman said.

Roslin growled, “Get that remote infiltration unit attached and give me access on the double!”

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