"One of the Little Sisters drank a Gene Tonic…Brain Boost, I believe. This is…unusual. However, I'm seeing no negative effects as of yet. It doesn't seem to be affecting her gathering skills or her conditioning. In fact, far as I can tell, it's improving. I'm trying to keep her under watch to see any other effects. It's early to say and this was just one incident, but…Lamb, this may be something we should look into for the Utopian project."
After the initial shock of this change had worn off, Link decided to move. A quick look found the limp gate. It was designed to hold small dogs, not wolves, and Link blasted through it with ease.
He was in a large hall. Disintegrating posters of smiling children with puppies hung tattered around the wrecked hall, with labels of 'Poodle', 'Belgian' and 'Golden' designating the bunkers where these dogs were held. The smell of…Link didn't even want to know…was overpowering to his improved senses, and he ran out the door.
Back out in Rapture's submerged halls, Link spun around to find any familiar sights. He found none…except for the ever-present ocean outside the windows. The green wolf let out a snort of frustration. Where was he? The hallways all looked the same from where he was. And this city was huge. It would take an eternity to get to the Sinclair Deluxe, if he could find it…and then what? He was a wolf now.
Link growled angrily at fate before plodding off somewhere…
"Hmm mm mm."
A voice jarred him out of his upset stupor. He whirled around, growling defensively at the shifting shadows on the walls.
"Here's a riddle." The deep voice purred mockingly. "Do masks hide what we are? Or do we don them to reveal a part of ourselves our faces cannot convey? Worth pondering, don't you agree, little hero?"
Wolf Link snarled, shifting around to see the speaker. He saw nothing but shadows. The purring mocker seemed to be everywhere at once. The voice continued.
"Well, that is a question for another day, perhaps. You have more pressing concerns, I believe? No, don't answer. I know. Like all things, you want a path to follow, a definite…conclusion. I can provide you with that…if you will humor me for a little while."
Link growled, listening. "What do you want?" he spoke in the language of the animals.
"A brief game of chase. There is someone you should meet and something you should see. One path will bring you to the endgame…and your condition will be seen to."
Link's ears perked up, but he still stayed suspicious. "How do I know you'll keep your word?"
"You don't. But that's what makes life so engaging. That is what you wanted, isn't it?" Link had the distinct impression this speaker was silently laughing at him. "Ask yourself, what else do you have now?"
Link took a deep breath and growled. "Fine."
"Hmm mm mm. Excellent." A buzzing came from a distant corridor, and Link turned around to see what it was.
A wind-up rabbit toy barreled through, rolling past Link before the wolf could even blink. Link was about to follow, but the toy went past a corner and vanished from sight. Link snapped in anger when another toy came in, hitting a wall and falling onto its side.
"Let your instincts guide you. Utilizing your senses will prolong your life, as anyone would agree. Pursue Rabbit."
Then the voice was silent.
Link approached the fallen rabbit toy curiously and noticed something. A very powerful scent was emanating from it, strong and not particularly pleasant. It stung the wolf's eyes, but Link carefully smelled it and committed it to memory.
He sensed the other rabbit toy had the same scent. With that in mind, he closed his eyes and focused. Sure enough, the same powerful scent had left the room, leaving an invisible trail a wolf could follow.
Not sure what to make of all this, Wolf Link sped away and followed the path.
"A cat wandering the halls? Luigi, many people in Rapture had pets. Dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, butterflies…a few may have survived, it's hardly cause for concern. As for its disappearing act…this place is a maze of alleyways and dark corners, not to mention the vents. It's not difficult for a resourceful animal to use those to its advantage. And talking? I think you're hearing things, bro."
Amid the ruins of San Fierro, 'Zeus' was having the time of its 'life'. There wasn't nearly as much biomass as it would've thought…most of the citizens had evacuated. But then the army came, and it feasted. Their memories, dreams and biological information were added to the growing conglomerate that sustained the virus. Now that Alex Mercer was…out of commission …Zeus could take what he pleased. Its hunger was insatiable, and it was disappointed when the army was finished.
And then he saw them. Three colossal purple airships, no doubt carrying more biomass. One of the soldiers he had consumed knew what were inside…more humans, therianths and Sangheili. Zeus always wondered what Sangheilis tasted like. He eagerly waited for them to come down…
But no biomass came down. The titanic ships fired at him with searing plasma blasts and traditional bullets. Many of them connected. Smaller ships, 'Banshees' streamed out like hornets to open fire on the creature.
Zeus screamed in pain and anger, and then composed itself. So they wouldn't come down to him.
He'd come to them.
Arbiter watched the fight impassively. He prayed that this abomination would go down quickly…how much it reminded him of the Flood. He would wager anything that there was a connection between what became of Alex Mercer and that accursed parasite. Simply seeing Zeus made his stomach churn.
And then the creature fired a long, murderous tentacle at one of the Banshees, grappling it with ease. The unfortunate pilot screamed in terror as Zeus forced the ship down. The pilot died when he bailed, but not before rigging the Banshee.
The ship blew up in Zeus' 'hands', much to the monstrosity's fury. Suddenly, Zeus leapt onto the top of one of the standing skyscrapers in the wrecked city. The army kept firing at him, but Zeus didn't seem to notice…or if he did, didn't care. A whirling disk of metal sliced two Banshees in half, and another tentacle brought down five more. An unlucky pilot Zeus was able to get his claws into was…consumed in a way that couldn't be described. The remaining pilots redoubled their fire.
"Keep firing! Without living biomass to heal himself, he'll go down!"
Zeus brought another Banshee down, and then fired a long tentacle at one of the Phantoms.
"Oh god…" A panicked voice came on the radio in Arbiter's room. "This is the Johnson, he's climbing on –"
Zeus whirled itself aboard the Phantom, and the screams and gunshots were incredibly audible over Arbiter's radio on the Master Chief. They told a story of violence more adequately than any writer could.
"RICKY! HE GOT RICK-AGGGK!"
"WE'RE GETTING KIL-"
The pilot of the Johnson came onto the radio, doing his utmost to stay calm and failing miserably.
"It's a suh-slaughterhouse in here! He's eating everyone…Oh God…half the force are dead…"
"He's healing himself…" Another voice on the radio realized. "With all that biomass he'll recover from the attack. Do something!"
There was a pause, and then the Johnson pilot spoke in a surprisingly calm voice. "We're doing something."
"What? What are you…?" Arbiter demanded, but the pilot was no more forthcoming – the radio had cut out. He looked out the window…
And the Johnson exploded.
Flames cascaded from every hole in the Phantom as the ship fell with a deafening boom. The huge ship crashed into the landmass, disintegrating within the space of a minute. There was a stunned silence from everyone.
And then the silence was broken with an inhuman roar of rage. From the smoke of the downed Phantom came a shambling monstrosity everyone recognized as a wounded Zeus.
Arbiter sprang into action. "Their deaths WILL NOT BE IN VAIN! That explosion weakened that monstrosity…Destroy it! NOW! OPEN FIRE!"
Everyone did, making Zeus scream even louder. Then a long pseudopod flew towards the Master Chief
McCloud's voice came on the radio. "Sir, he's climbing onto US!"
"I found one of those neat diary things! It was a woman with a funny accent asking for 'Masha'. Masha, what a neat name! I like it, it's cool. Cooler than my name…well, Ms. Lamb always talks about killing the old self and becoming anew, so…I think my new self should be Masha! Yep, that's right Mr. Diary. Call me Masha Lutz from now on!"
Link ran through the deserted corridors of Rapture, hot on the trail of the rabbit doll that voice had sent him after. He growled at the thought he was being toyed with, but saw no other option. Following the scent trail the toy had left, the wolf ran through the underwater sidewalks of Rapture.
Then he ran into a problem.
The scent trail went through a large brass door. A closed door. Link stopped and looked carefully. There were no handles on it, and it didn't open when he approached it like the other doors in Rapture. There was only a smaller door built into it that did slide open. But try as he might, Link could not fit through the tiny hole in the door.
The scent trail led to other side of a dead-end. Link let out a sharp growl of anger. A Dead End! Now what?
A rustling nearby answered his question. Link whirled around. In the shadows two glowing yellow eyes looked at him curiously. Link bared his teeth defensively as the owner of those two yellow lights stepped out of the shadows.
Link stopped growling. It was a little girl.
The girl could best be described as crooked. Her skin was a clammy green, and her left leg and right arm were…off. As if they had grown slightly more than the other, causing her to walk oddly. Her eyes glowed a strange yellow, bags under them making her look like a creature that never slept and didn't need to. Her outfit was patchwork – towels, rags and pieces of cloth held together by a belt and several staples.
Strange. But still very much a little girl. Crooking her head, the child continued to look at Link oddly, like he was something she had never seen before.
Then she smiled broadly and spoke unexpectedly.
Link barely blinked when the little girl was on him. She was less than half his size but was clearly not afraid in the least. The girl wrapped her arms around the wolf, giving him a tight hug. Link gulped hard.
"Puppy wuppy wuffie wooby woofy!" Her voice was distorted slightly, but it was clear she was very happy. Link blinked as the girl ended the hug and scratched him behind the ears. That he liked more.
"Never seen a puppy before…you're so cuuuuute!"
Cute? Link was confused. What on earth was this girl seeing when she looked at him? He stared at her with wide eyes. The raggedy, crooked girl stopped scratching and blushed.
"Ohh…silly me, my name! I'm Masha. What's your name?"
Link answered, too bewildered to realize Masha couldn't understand what he was saying.
"Mr. Woof? That's a nice name, I like it! Nice to meet ya, Mr. Woof!"
Mr. Woof?!? Link shook his head clear. Then he saw Masha holding out her hand. Her fingers were long, like they were secretly planning to become claws. Realizing what it meant, Link placed his paw on it and was shook vigorously by Masha.
"Heheheheeehehe…You're a good doggie! Wanna play a little?"
Link removed his paw. What was he doing? He was supposed to be following the scent trail…except he couldn't…but why was he talking - being talked to – this girl?
Somehow Masha saw his eyes go towards the door. "Ohhhh…so you wanna go over there?" She pointed to the door.
Surprised that Masha had figured it out, Link nodded.
Masha smiled her crooked smile. "Okaaaayyyy…Tell you what! We play a little, you do me a favor, and I'll open the door? How's dat, Mr. Woof?"
Mr. Woof – LINK – glanced at the small door and the girl. She was certainly small and thin enough…maybe this would be a good idea, do what this bizarre girl wanted and keep moving…he had nothing else to do.
"So? Yes or no, Mr. Woof?"
Link nodded slowly, sighing. This was going to be interesting…