The Mall. The Bard thought it almost looked like the entrance to McRath's dungeon. He wondered if he should expect to get "served" by hordes of undead teenagers inside. Still, a fortress was a fortress, and he had stormed many in his time. This one would be no different.
Ms. Connor's orders had been simple: "You all do something about those alien craft. Bard, with me."
Well he sure wasn't going to argue with her, especially when she was holding the magic shotgun of command +3. He fell into step with her, just a touch more obediently than his pride would have liked.
They passed a group of teenagers on their way out as they entered the mall. Several of them did a double-take seeing her so armed in public. The Bard tried to ignore their trepidatious stares, and quickened his pace. He stepped up next to Ms. Connor. "You're gonna get killed carryin' that around like that."
"Then you keep the law off me." Her head swiveled slowly as she scanned for any threat, her long strides almost leaving the Bard behind. "I brought you as a distraction."
He nodded sarcastically. "Right. That'll be easy. After all, I'm bullet-proof."
"You also think fast on your feet, so quit whining."
Sure enough, they didn't get around a Macy's corner before a fat blue-uniformed man went wide-eyed and started talking into a device on his shoulder. One hand went to a gun at his hip.
"Shyte." The Bard closed distance quickly and laid him out with a punch.
He turned to look at Ms. Connor as she strode past, glaring at him.
The Bard returned her glare impatiently. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I mention how I thought fast on my feet in McRath's dungeon?"
"Just focus!" She led him on.
The Bard heard the pounding of feet behind him and turned to look. Link ran up and skidded to a stop on the tile floor, bracing himself up on his knees and panting. "Appa's been shot down and Harry is wounded. The others retreated in and are pinned down in the Sears Automotive department."
Ms. Connor cursed under her breath. "Let's move! We have to find him!"
Link pointed to an FAO Schwartz. "I'll catch up! I need a slinky and a bag of marbles!"
Ms. Connor squinted as he ran toward the toy store. "What the hell do you need a slinky for?!"
The Bard glared at her. "Oh, so you understood the bag of marbles then, did you?"
The Obsidian Guard really were a lot tougher than they looked. Anakin peeked up from behind a row of washer-dryers and immediately ducked back down as several plasma bolts flew over his helmeted head.
Whhhhhhhh pahhhhhhh "Well fuck."
Aang stomped the floor, sending a wall of solid granite up into the path of the biggest laser blast Anakin had ever seen. the rock shattered under the impact, and Aang sent a whirling jet of flame toward his foes. the flames dissipated against shimmering shields, but succeeded in catching a rack of all-weather tires on fire. "Anakin! Use the force!" the young monk dove down a hardware aisle as plasma bolts ripped through metal like it was paper.
And those shields were the real kicker. They were psychic energy, somehow. They were like the force, and so Anakin could not telekinetically strangle them, or throw them. Harry, bloody and huddled under a pool table, threw spell after spell after them, but to no avail.
They were protected from energy. They would need close-in, physical attacks.
"Protegio!" The young wizard barely got a shield up in time for the volley of fire.
Paul's cover, an ATV on display, ripped apart explosively. He dove into a roll and came to a stop behind Anakin's washer-dryer. "Got any ideas?!"
Anakin sighed throatily and pulled out his light-saber. It came to life in red with a sharp electric hiss and a low hum.
Paul nodded. "The old fashioned way, huh?" He drew his wormtooth knife. "Alright. Let's do it."
Anakin pressed the button on his chestplate, and stood up. From the speakers in his chest emanated a rousing war song as he parried a volley of plasma bolts. He cocked his head to the left, the right, and the left in time with the music.
"I like big butts and I cannot lie! Them other brothers can't deny!..."
Two of the obsidian order charged him. He cut them down with two quick strokes. A third tried to flank, but Paul ducked low and disemboweled him with one stroke of his crysknife.
"When a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face you get sprung!..."
Anakin could sense Paul standing back to back with him, and hear his occasional vocalizations through his wrist module, shorting out some of their shields with low-level electric bursts. Soon, Aang joined the dance, blowing them back, trapping them in stone, and clobbering the fire out of them with his staff.
The tide was turning.
Until they saw Harry again, in the arms of one of the Obsidian Guard, a plasma pistol pointed at his head.
A deep robotic voice said, "Stand down, or I kill him."
"...my homeboys try to warn me but that butt you got makes--" Anakin clicked off the music.
Link discarded a plastic slinky. "Nope." He dug through a pile of toys in the bargain bin. "There's got to be a metal one in here somewhere."
"Dude, your costume is so awesome!"
Link turned around to see a chubby, pimple-faced boy of no more than sixteen years grinning at him.
"Oh. Uh...thanks. So is yours."
The boy laughed.
"hey uh...have you got a metal slinky?"
"I sure do!" He leaned in conspiratorially. "It's the last one! I was saving it for myself, but if you got rupees, I'll give it to you."
Link nodded. "How much?"
"Got a red rupee?"
Link dug in his pouch. Yellow, yellow, blue, blue, a whole pile of greens...."Ah. Here it is." He pulled out the red rupee.
The boy laughed. "Awww man! This is so cool!" He reached out to take the red crystal, grinnning like he had found a piece of the triforce. He held up one finger to Link, and ran to the desk with the cash register. He grinned at Link like a man with a great secret.
From under his desk, he produced a small box with a metal coil inside.
Link approached, and took the device gingerly. He held it up over his head in gratitude to the Trinity.
The boy sang out, "na na na naaaaa!"
Link looked at him curiously.
"So what does the Hero of Time need with a slinky?"
Link quickly concocted an excuse. "I...have heard legends. That it goes down stairs, alone or in pairs."
The boy grinned. "It's a secret to everybody. ...right? Right?"
Link nodded slowly, and backed out.
The Bard scanned the sea of faces in the mall food-court. "So how are we gonna recognize this kid?"
Ms. Connor said, "Think I don't know what kid looks like when he knows he's being hunted?" She beelined for one table in the middle.
The lone boy at the table looked up in horror.
He couldn't have been any more than 13. dark hair hung messily about his head, and eyes of gray peered at them, open wide.
And then, they heard it: The air filled with the sounds of electric zaps as black holes opened in reality around them. They expanded to fill the shapes of men, and then solidified into the forms of black-armored soldiers carrying large, menacing weapons.
Sarah raised her shotgun. "Get to him!" She pulled the trigger with one loud, decisive BANG.
But the buckshot sparked harmlessly off a blue shimmering shield.
The Bard felt something hot sear his leg. He collapsed with a scream. When he looked up, he found the muzzles of several pistols pointed at him.
He raised his hands. To Ms. Connor he shouted, "Any ideas?"
Link wrapped one end of the slinky around his sword and jammed it into the light socket. He peeked up over the Marble Slab ice cream bar. So far, the enemy had not noticed him.
Two young employees watched him in horrified curiousity from their hiding places with him behind the ice cream counter. He gave them a diplomatic nod as he worked. "Don't worry. I'm a professional."
They nodded slowly.
He quickly attached the other end of the slinky to his boomerang, said a silent prayer to Nayru, and let it fly.
Ms. Connor turned in place, leveling her shotgun on each foe in turn. They were not cowed, and instead closed the distance slowly, eerily similar to another invincible foe she had faced once.
She began to breathe quickly, in short, panicked breaths. She even thought she saw one of their eyes glow red.
And then, something spun in out of the corner of her eye, wrapping around her enemies. with...
Was that a slinky?!
There was a pop like lightening. She flinched away. The Bard came up with his Shadow-axe, taking the moment of distraction to smash two of his captors away. They tried to recover, as their cohorts slumped to the floor, but their feet flew out from under them--
--as they stepped on marbles.
With a roar, the Bard smashed his prone enemies, and the ones by Ms. Connor who had been electrocuted.
The Bard saw danger, and tried to point over Ms. Connor's shoulder. "Uh!--"
"YAAAA!" Something short, green, and Elven flew in from over the ice-cream counter. The look on Link's face was one of pure, primal, elven-chosen-of-courage kill-Ganon-and-turn-his-head-into-a-flow
Link flourished his sword and sheathed it behind his back. Looking to Ms. Connor and the Bard.
The Bard nodded. "Not bad, mate! Not bad at all!"
Link looked to Ms. Connor. "We need to dig the others out."
"Go." She pointed to the Bard. "You stay with me."
The boy had not moved. He glared up at them with a familiar defiance--it was one the Bard had seen on all their faces in the meetings, as they recounted the horrors of their enemies. He saw it on Harry's face as he told the story of the duel with Voldemort. On John's, as he talked about the coming apocalypse. On Aang's, as he recounted the battle of Sozin's Comet.
He imagined that, if he had looked in the mirror when he and his cohorts were trapped in Mangar's throne room, as the paladin Isli shed her final tears to break out and warn the rest of the city, he would have seen the same face.
This was the look of a Chosen One, facing his own death with sheer defiant will.
Ms. Connor knelt next to him, extending her right hand to the frightened boy. "Come with me if you want to live."