Chapter 34 – Digging In

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Deep in the recesses of the palace, the other three teams had reached their targets. The alarm was raised that several key facilities were no longer operated by Yates’ forces and could not be accessed. The plan was working so far. Impa tapped away furiously on her console, pausing only briefly to remove the portion of the platform she carried. She handed it off to the rest of the group. Roslin did the same as she moved to aid Impa in her efforts. The other three assembled their pad quickly and powered it up. From there, they took up positions to begin defending the room should anyone breach the perimeter.

“The pad’s online. Ready to call for backup.” Saito said as she pumped the slide on her weapon, the whine of a charge building doing a great deal to encourage her and the rest of her unit.

Roslin nodded, watching on her screen as the other three rooms came online as well, remotely taking control.

“We have access. Drop radio silence,” she said as she lifted a hand to press into the side of her helmet, activating the communicator hidden just next to her ear, “This is Roslin, all teams are in position, we’re assuming control now. Requesting backup on all platforms.”

“This is Shad, I’m attempting to reconnect. Remote access to weapons, shields, and railgun control is coming online now.” replied the young man who had been practically holding his breath the whole time.

“Status update on the fleet.” Roslin ordered.

“They are taking heavy fire, ma’am,” Shad answered, “They cannot hold out long. It looks like their distraction worked just as we hoped it would. General Euless is ordering them to break formation and turn away.”

“Get the second wave ready. I want them in-theater the instant we drop shields.” Roslin commanded as she continued to tap away, trying to gain control of the systems they had isolated. Something wasn’t right.

“Ma’am, I am having trouble establishing contact with the pads, and remote intrusion into the targeted systems is not working. It would appear they have set up a firewall. It will take time for me to penetrate it. How long can you hold your positions?” Shad asked.

Roslin turned as she heard heavy pounding on the doors, frowning, “Not long. Work fast. Anything you can get us will help.”

Link, Saito, and Bruno brought their weapons to bear on the door being hammered away at. The other two exits rang out with the same blood-chilling bashing. They were surrounded.

“Team Din to team Hylia!” shouted the commander of the unit in question, “We’re taking heavy fire! We can’t hold the room for long! We can’t break through the command lockouts! Please advise!”

Roslin frowned, “Hold your ground! Shad is working on it!”

“Ma’am,” Impa looked up, “I have managed to take control of communications throughout the palace. I am opening channels to the fleet, Skyloft, and to Shad. I am hoping the stronger connection will help him break through.”

As she spoke, the radio chatter from the battle going on above began to filter through. They were suffering, badly. Roslin paused as she listened. A sense of dread began to wash over her as it began to look more and more like they wouldn’t be able to hold their ground.

“Team Din, this is Hylia. Open your in-mission orders. You are instructed to follow them to the letter,” Roslin said, “Do you understand?”

There was a brief silence as they found a lull in the action to do as she requested. They didn’t like what they found.

“Ma’am, if I’m reading this right… you want us to put the railgun into overload?” the commander of team Din asked.

“That’s right. And you are to lockout all remote access. Only physical bypasses should be operable. Do it now.” Roslin barked.

The rest of the team turned to look at her, horrified by what she was ordering. Saito lowered her gun as she stepped towards her commander.

“If that thing overloads, the whole mountain will be vaporized… there’ll be a ten mile wide crater!” she cried.

“I know, Major. That’s the idea. It’s a failsafe. We’ve got an even bigger wildfire scenario than you had back at the power plant,” Roslin replied, “Shad, see if you can get the pads working again. All teams, assemble your transports. Be prepared to evac on my order. Team Din, when the order is given, you will destroy all physical bypasses and lock the system into overload. Do you understand?”

Silence followed for a moment. It was terrible news.

“Yes ma’am. I copy. Pad has been assembled. Waiting on your orders.” the commander said.

Roslin closed her eyes, wishing it had not come to this. She listened to the screams of the pilots as they were shot down. The crews of the heavier vessels scrambled and called out reports and orders, trying desperately to hang in the fight as long as they could. In spite of the heavy losses, the man she has selected to head up the campaign was doing rather well directing their forces to sustain themselves for as long as possible.

“General Euless to the fleet! Come about and engage full thrust! Abandon your current flight path and retreat! Second wave, stand by to jump in and assist the evacuation!” called out the man’s clear voice.

“Sir! Reading new signatures entering the battlefield!” shouted one of the General’s support staff.

Roslin looked to her display, calling up a radar cross section of the area. A fleet of twenty unknown craft appeared. The sensors were still trying to identify them. As it worked, a new block of text appeared near the bottom of the screen. Her lips pulled into a broad smile.

“General! They’re broadcasting their universal friend or foe signatures!” the Potentate shouted in triumph, “It’s the Gorons!”

The display flashed an alert for an incoming transmission, opening the channel automatically. What she saw was a familiar face, heavy, richly tan, dark eyes, and broad features that were iconically characteristic of the race.

“Well hello Minister… or should I say Potentate? You think you could get away with having an all-out war and leave us out of the fun?” said the Goron commander as he grinned terribly wide.

Roslin smirked, “You know how I love to hog the glory. Good to see you. Couldn’t be better timed.”

The gruff mountain-dweller laughed, “Stand by, we’re moving into position now. We’ll give those cruisers a run for their money. You should be receiving reinforcements shortly. Hold your ground as long as you can.”

“Understood!” Roslin shouted then switched channels to deliver the turn of fortune, “Team Din! Belay the previous order! Hold your ground! Backup is on its way!”

The Potentate watched as the twenty large, wedge-shaped carriers– all tinged a deep rusty orange–sailed gracefully into combat. Explosions rocked the nearby cultist ships, pounded heavily by Goron artillery. They always had a way with large scale assaults. What was most impressive was seeing Goron warriors–armored surprisingly lightly–leaping out of the carriers towards the enemy ships. In mid-air they curled tight, taking on the shape of the rocks they so skillfully mimicked. It was as if they were dropping boulders on the enemy! Each Goron punched through the hull of their targets, landing inside and immediately beginning to raise quite the commotion.

“Commander!” shouted Shad excited, “I’m breaking through the firewall! I’ve already got access to weapons and shields! Defense screens are going down now! I’m reprogramming our turrets to target the enemy! Railgun control is still offline!”

Roslin, finally encouraged by their allies coming to their aid, changed her tactics slightly, “Leave it that way! We don’t want to accidentally hit one of our allies! Can you get the pads online?”

She left the console behind, moving to join her team and defend the room. There wasn’t really anything else she could do on that front, so her attention shifted to the more immediate priority, holding their position.

“Working on that now!” Shad cried.

The tide was beginning to turn. Still, if they couldn’t get backup to the four teams inside, it might be for nothing. The pounding on the doors continued. Heavy, angry looking dents formed as whatever was attacking showed its strength.

“Impa, leave the controls. We’ve done all we can. Let Shad take the helm. Get down here. We’re going to need you,” Roslin said as she drew her rifle and took up a position next to Bruno.

“As you wish.” the Sheikah woman said.

Impa moved to join Saito, her gestures bringing curious violet flames to her hands. Link remained by himself, sword drawn, shield at the ready. He was the hero, and as such, he was expected to be able to handle a door all by himself. This time, he didn’t question the matter. He was riled up and ready to split some heads open. He would get his chance in very short order. It was only a matter of time.

“Shad, see if you can get the auto-defense turrets working. We could use a few in central command.” Roslin said as she settled into her defensive posture, rifle aimed at the door.

“I thought you might ask for that,” the young man replied, “I am bringing them up now. They will be only forty-three percent effective with main power offline but that should still be sufficient to mount a significant defense.”

The turrets the Potentate requested emerged from the ceiling, sliding downward and holding in place as they brought their guns to bear on the doors. All five members of the team stood silently, tense and fighting off how badly they could be rattled watching the doors buckle further. Then it happened.

The seam on one of the doors gave way, revealing the metallic sheen of the creature that had pressed in. It wore a protective covering over its face, parting his jaws to shriek angrily before bashing forward again. The curved wedge-shape of its helmet shoved the two halves of the barrier apart. The monster itself was rather large, taking up the whole of the doorway with its sickly crimson body, boney and covered in a leathery hide. A long gnarled tail whipped about behind it as it hissed and roared. With feral rage, it clawed away to drag itself through the opening. The other two doors were destroyed by similar beasts. The turrets immediately came to life, opening fire, but to no avail. The masks the creatures wore deflected the blasts.

“Link! Have you seen these before!?” Roslin shouted.

The Lieutenant nodded, “Helmasaur! The mask is strong enough to shrug off just about whatever we throw at it! Use anything explosive you’ve got! Aim for under its chin or the eyes!”

He put his sword away, drawing his bow. The same cluster of black from battling the stalfos days ago surrounded the shaft near the head as he knocked his first arrow. It was loosed, striking the green stone in the forehead of the mask. That was not where he wanted to put the arrow, but the creature had shifted its head at the last second. It bounced off towards the ceiling, exploding only an instant afterwards. The creature roared angrily as its mask cracked near the top.

“I thought you said to aim for its eyes or under its jaw! You can’t get an arrow to penetrate that armor!” shouted Saito

“I know!” Link grumbled, “What I wouldn’t give for a hammer right now!”

Impa was surprisingly adept at fighting the beasts. She tossed a small, round orb of black along the ground, letting it roll right under one of the monster’s hugely clawed paws. As it slammed down on top of the sphere, it exploded, tossing the beast onto its side for a moment. In that instant, a tender underbelly could be seen and she immediately began hurling dozens of black wedge-shaped daggers into it. Their efforts worked well to hold the monsters at bay, but they couldn’t fell the hideous things. They needed something that could deal more damage.

Then a mighty thud shook the whole room. It even caught the attention of the three helmasaurs. A large, brown hand reached in towards the smooth helmet of one of the beasts, grabbing and dragging the creature back into the hall. A cry of dismay rose from the hideous thing as it was pulled away. The sound of heavy fists and something of great weight being slammed into the walls came from outside, then all went quiet. The other two were drawn back as well and slain in a similarly unseen fashion. Once all had fallen quiet again, all three doors were filled with a trio of Goron soldiers, each one as intimidating as stories of their ancient battles had painted them to be.

“Commander, we heard you could use some help.” said one of the imposing warriors.

Roslin grinned, “Happy to have it.”

“You’ll also be happy to hear the Zora have joined the fight. They’re swarming the cruisers right now. It’s like a school of piranha flying through the air out there right now.” the Goron warrior said.

Saito and Bruno both cheered as they turned to find the display showing exactly that, “It’s about damn time we got some backup!”

The leader of the Goron teams nodded, “Our General sends his deepest apologies for not responding to your requests sooner. He felt surprise was a better tactic. Any communication from us might have warned them of our intentions. My name is Coron, member of the Combat Elite.”

Roslin nodded, “Thank you Coron, and you can tell him he’s forgiven when you see him next. For now, we’ve got a job to do. Are the other teams getting backup?”

“As we speak. We’re even setting up relays to strengthen your signal back to Skyloft. Your man Shad should be able to get your… pads?” He pointed to the platform, “Back up and running any second now. Nice trick by the way. You’ll have to share that with us sometime.”

“It’s a deal. Now… cover the doors. Do not let anything through. We lose this room, we lose the fight.” Roslin said, relieved that none of the Gorons had taken it upon themselves to treat her with any royal fussiness.

Coron turned and barked orders at his men, his loud, deep voice alone frightening off those of weaker constitution outside. The doors were dragged and shoved back into place as best could be managed as the platform came to life. Its column of light rose as several new figures appeared, stepping out onto the ground around it. They stumbled a bit, disoriented just as the first wave had been. Their leader stood, composing himself quickly as he offered Roslin a salute.

“You called for reinforcements ma’am?” the new commander asked.

He maintained his posture as the rest of his men began setting up their gear. They had brought three large turrets which they began mounting directly into the floor, along with a number of small defense screen generators. They had a proper foothold now.

“You bet we did. Cover the exits, keep an active scan running. Hopefully we’ll be able to pull this off.” Roslin said.

“Oh how touching. The underdogs think they actually stand a chance,” oozed a slimy voice from the speakers lining the room everyone was able to immediately identify even before the owner’s face appeared on the main display, “You’ve done well to get this far. I must admit I’m deeply impressed. You told me outright you were coming, and I still didn’t see it until it was too late to keep you out. Well played Minister Roslin… or should I call you Zelda?”

“I don’t give a damn what you call me, because in a few minutes, you won’t have a mouth to insult me with,” Roslin practically spat, “Somehow I knew you wouldn’t be able to stomach locking yourself in the command room knowing we were on our way. You and your ancestors have always run from a fight, you coward.”

Yates sneered, his hair shimmered in the light behind him. It looked as if it was made of flame. His eyes had taken on an unsettling glow as well. He simply looked less like himself, and more like the monster he wished to summon into his being.

“I am exactly where I need to be, the one place where I can complete the ritual without interruption. Soon, my master will replace me and he will level this mountain with a single wave of his hand. None of you will survive. Your pathetic alliance means nothing. It makes no difference how quickly or slowly you are all wiped out,” the former Regent said with disdain dripping from his words then his sneer turned to a wicked grin, “However, before you are reduced to a bleeding corpse, there is one thing you can do for me.”

Roslin glared through the screen, “I’d be more than happy to put an arrow through your eye. All you had to do was say so. How would you like it? In front of a large crowd? Or in your bathroom where you can cry and cower in shame where no one can see you?”

Yates laughed heartily, throwing his head back in amusement, “Oh you do have fire in you! I honestly cannot believe I didn’t see through your little disguise sooner! But no, as laughable as the notion that you could kill me truly is, what I would like is for you to send your little hero up to meet me. That way when my master arrives, he will have the distinct pleasure of crushing him under his boot as his first act to subdue your little assault. With the hero dead, your people will break and flee, or throw themselves foolishly into some last-hope tactic that will kill them all.”

Link was sorely tempted, drawing his sword as a sign of his willingness to face off with Yates, “I just need a time and a place.”

“No!” Roslin shouted and turned, holding out her hand to stop him, “No, he wants us to separate. You have to stay here. We’re so close but we’re still vulnerable.”

“Oh… poor Roslin… too scared to send her little hero off to meet his true destiny. You know, I do have one regret in all of this. I wish I had waited to assemble the Triforce of Power until after you arrived,” Yates said and paused, a wicked grin spreading across his face, “So that I could have turned your own men against you again! I suppose Lord Ganondorf will have to subjugate them all the old fashioned way!”

“You just keep on talking. Say hello to the sniper’s bullet when it shows up. You two will have a lot to talk about I’m sure.” Roslin snapped and moved to close the channel, bored with the conversation.

Yates saw this and interjected.

“One last thing before you turn me off,” he said which made Roslin pause, begrudgingly letting him speak, “There is the matter of my honor I must attend to. You see, I made a promise, and I am nothing if I am not a man of my word.”

“I’m not interested in your promises.” the Potentate said.

“Oh but you should be!” Yates cackled.

He waved to someone off to one side. He must have some group of minions ready to do his bidding. Whoever was there did as the former Regent commanded and the sound of a woman crying out in complaint could be heard. Roslin’s face turned ashen as she pieced together what was about to happen. Link’s blood ran cold when he recognized the voice.

“You didn’t.” he said quietly.

“Lieutenant, I believe I owe your friend one last chance to see you alive and well before your battered and broken body is hung from the palace gates for all to see.” Yates said.

“Yates, I swear to the goddess-” Link growled, cutting himself off as soon as he saw her.

A feminine figure was shoved into view. The former Regent cackled again as he reached around her shoulders and gripped her chin from behind, forcing her to lift her face and look into the display. She had been crying, and from the marks on her face and neck, they had been rather rough on her. The Lieutenant’s teeth ground harshly against one another. His fingers tightened around the grip of his sword until his knuckles popped in his gloves. The man on the display pressed his cheek against that of the terrified woman, wrapping his other arm around her waist to keep her from escaping.

“As you can see Miss Lillian, I have kept my promise.” Yates said.

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