"I played Poker with some of the soldiers today. Now, I am an expert at dealing, and in the past I used poker nights to distribute wealth according to the needs of my competitors…back in the day. That's beside the point. What I find troubling is how much of a…struggle it was to allow myself to win so much as one hand, as is natural instinct, or even simply leaving the game to chance, as it should be. I once prided myself on my conquest over my natural inclinations. Now…I find my new dominating habits disturbing. I suppose it all amounts to the question of whether a leopard can truly change his spots."
"Put that foul smelling thing out." Arbiter commanded in a low voice. Sofia took the long cigarette out of her mouth reluctantly, extinguishing the flame with a metal, thimble-like cap.
The two were walking through Mercury Suites, on their way to their respective bedrooms. Arbiter would've preferred he hadn't run into Sofia, but she was lingering by the entrance breathing that disgusting smoke. How it was supposed to be calming for the humans Arbiter didn't know. He also didn't know why the perpetually cool Sofia Lamb would need it.
Her piercing blue eyes glanced at him from behind her glasses. "What are you thinking about?"
"None of your concern." In truth, he was dwelling on how ironic it was that the Johnson was the first to fall in sacrifice.
"You can talk to me, you know…"
"Is that what you told all who followed you?"
The dry, blunt tone of his sharp response, as well as the honest answer to that question, prompted Sofia to stay silent. They passed a mural of Sofia, covered in butterflies and with 'Lamb will lead the way' painted over the top. Someone had though it funny to draw an eyepatch and curly mustache on her face. Sofia smiled ruefully.
Finally, Arbiter spoke. "Which operative was it that vanished?"
"Uh…the Hylian. Link. I'm hoping to speak to him la-"
Sofia stopped in midsentence on seeing the person in question limping up to his room. The two commanders were almost in front of Link's door, and they would've collided with him had Sofia not suddenly stopped.
Arbiter turned and his eyes fell on a strange sight. Link, the young human who definitely wasn't on the Mercer campaign, looked as though he had weathered a battlezone by himself. There were burn marks and cuts on his face, and red stains in several places on his tunic told of more wounds, although nothing life-threatening. The way he was limping broadcasted a wounded leg.
Link opened his door with a wince, not noticing his two superiors staring at him. As Link stumbled into his room, Sofia strode towards him, propping the door open. Arbiter joined her in the doorway. "Link, what on earth happened to you?"
Link didn't respond to Sofia's question. He simply grabbed the sack of supplies he had taken with him from Hyrule. Reaching into it, he produced a bottle filled with a strange red liquid. Uncorking the glass bottle, he took a deep drink.
Before the puzzled eyes of the two figures in the doorway, the burns and cuts on Link's face vanished. In a few seconds, he was an unhurt, but bone-weary, young man in a stained tunic. He wiped his mouth, and was corking the half-full bottle when he noticed the two watching him from the doorway.
Sofia cleared her throat. "Please pardon us. I want to speak to you regarding today's incident."
Link yawned. "Later? Tired."
Sofia and Arbiter could see that Link was exhausted, so they didn't argue. However, Arbiter made a request. "Very well, but may I see that bottle?"
Link looked at him for a moment.
"You will be returned your weapon, I am finished with it." Arbiter sighed.
That satisfied Link. His limp completely gone, he walked to the doorway and handed Arbiter the red bottle. Then he turned to Sofia. "Uh…what's a 'little sister'?"
Sofia was surprised by that question. "You mean…it's a long story."
"Later then." Link yawned again. "Night."
The door closed, and the two commanders stared at it for a moment, as if trying to decipher the occupant behind it.
"Sofia, what is the time?"
Lamb checked the watch on her wrist. "12:38 PM. Just after noon."
Arbiter looked at the bottle in his hand. Another thing for Gordon to look at. Eventually the huge warrior walked away, leaving Sofia to re-light her cigarette. Both sensed that this would not be the last mystery regarding the Hylian, Link.
"Awaiting me at the Farmer's Market was this lumbering behemoth tearing apart a group of skinny, wretched monstrosities resembling those Flood-infected soldiers. Luigi's 'ghosts'. When the big one was finished with the other ghouls, he turned on me. I killed him with a headshot, no big battle. But not before the 'human' charged into me like a tank and put a dent in my armor. Whoof. I'll make a report and give it to Arbiter when he returns."
Aven was relieved that the female human wasn't making any noise this time. He winced as he brought his hand to his mandible. That therianth had a strong punch.
The apartment in the Sinclair Deluxe had been custom made for a Sangheili, with a special bed and chair. There was little else…Aven only used to room for sleeping.
Something caught his eye on his way to the bed. Right below the metal flower that ventilated air into his room was a large box with wrapping paper sloppily covering it. Curious, the minor elite picked up the present and tore it open.
It was a cobbled carbine, with metal implements welded surprisingly well to its side and top. With it was an audio diary that had a butterfly drawn on it.
"Hiya! It's me. Sorry about all that stuff in the stockroom but you kinda scared me. I made you something to make up for it. Hope you like it! Sincerely, Masha Lutz."
Aven scowled at the carbine. This was from that miniscule burglar that humiliated him in the storeroom? And he…she…had the nerve to…Aven was ready to snap the weapon in two.
The Sangheili stopped himself. It was a gift…and that voice sounded like a child. She said sorry…
Aven sighed quietly. He'd make a report. But first, he might as well see how this gift fired.
"So baby, I hear you need some hard cash for your little band. Yeah, you need good equip and a record deal to make it in this town. Bear market, Casey. Now, I got plenty of green from my sponsors, and I'm feeling charitable, so I'll give it to ya. Just one condition, baby. Ya gotta show me your backyard, sweetcheeks. 500 bucks for a little action. There's a deal for ya."
Casey had slung her guitar over her shoulder, looking like a troubadour seeking a place for her music. She was, too…she and Jimi had the itch for some playing, and with Rtas' request they were seeking a place away from the sleeping soldiers. She made a point of informing Sofia that she would be 'standing by' somewhere else for a bit.
She had seen plenty of advertisements about a place that seemed suitable, and was heading towards the bathysphere station when she ran into a soldier with a beard.
"Well well, what's a girl like you doing in a place like this?" he asked in a tone that he might have though charming, but Casey found repugnant.
"Leaving." Casey wasn't in the mood for this. She tried to walk past the man only to have her face grabbed.
"C'mon darling, daddy's had a hard day."
"Let go of me, old man!"
Another gross hand grabbed her by the ear. "WHAT did you say?"
CRACK! A well placed kick put a dent in the pervert's plans for tonight. The soldier crumpled to the floor painfully.
Casey promptly stepped over the man, not bothering to finish her taunt. Jimi sneered at the lying figure before hopping after his mistress to the bathysphere station.
The pained soldier sneered. Moving around Rapture without word will get that little twist in trouble with the leaders. He looked at the tiny metal thing in his hand. Especially without her commlink.