"Bowerstone Castle has long been a beloved symbol of peace, progress and prosperity. It symbolizes how Albion has been freed of both the insane machinations of Lord Lucien and the tyranny of King Logan. The castle has stood for centuries, even after multiple upheavals, invasions and coups. The citizens of Bowerstone pray that it will stay standing as long as Albion exists."
Sofia made a point of contacting their backers before Arbiter and his soldiers deployed. As Sofia had predicted, the coalition wanted to waste no time in pursuing leads to this book. Sofia watched the Master Chief leave Rapture behind at top speed, ready to infiltrate the castle. They were very sure they would succeed. They hadn't been stopped before, although there had been nasty complications. What would stop them now?
But something still troubled Sofia. While waiting for the confirmation, she had investigated Dimentio and this mansion using the connection to the surface. What she had found confused her further. Several months ago the castle was 'bought' for an enormous sum of money by an undisclosed party. On Dimentio however, she had found next to nothing…there was no known historical records of anyone named Dimentio, except for advertisements for his show this weekend in Las Venturas. At least, nothing in the coalition's archives.
Arbiter had remained adamant that Dimentio was likely just a code name, or a coincidence. It seemed unrealistic that a carnival performer would have his hands on this book. This would be a different 'Dimentio'. Still, it concerned Sofia that there was only one being with that name known in the world.
Of course, they still had to follow this lead. But this nagging feeling that she was missing something simply wouldn't go away. She still felt something was being overlooked. That something was amiss about this whole affair.
She was still pondering this when she passed by the Achilles shooting ground. Glancing inside, she saw Aven and Link taking shots at the targets with their respective weapons. Link's crossbow never missed. Aven's plasma rifle was off-target more than a few times. Automated messages praising Link and condescending Aven replayed again and again.
"Excellent – shot -!"
"Oooooh – tooooooooooo-oooo-ooo bad."
"Wonderful! Nice work, mate!"
"Maybe – you – should go baback to the amusement parkkk…"
Aven was more obviously irritated. The Elite was never very good at hiding his frustrations. He cursed in Sangheili with every message and seemed to seriously contemplate strangling that unseen voice. It was a good thing he had enough restraint not to take his frustrations out on Link.
Link seemed much calmer and composed, but Sofia could see a tinge of frustration in his eyes. The tenseness she had noticed had increased, though he was doing his best to hide it. Frustration at being useless? Being left behind? Seems as though these two had more in common that she had originally thought. These two needed an assignment. Link because he was growing stir crazy, Aven because it was the only way he'd calm down.
Sofia turned to continue walking, not taking the hallway to her own dormitory. She had another destination in mind, another idea. Arbiter would not be pleased, of course. Still, every lead had to be investigated. And even if it was a waste of time, it would also help the well-being of three operatives. Two birds with one stone.
"When I saw what that 'hero' did to MY HOME, I nearly…I don't even recognize it anymore! All my pictures, all my statues, all my memories…gone. With not even a token reminder that I existed! Albert says I'm overreacting. What could I expect, after being 'dead' for centuries? A little more respect than just 'the crazy old man who fought the hero long ago'. I'm looking forward to getting my castle back…"
On board the Master Chief, Arbiter and Rtas had finished looking over the blueprints and had come up with a plan, which they were relaying to Lara, Snake and the others.
"Bowerstone Castle is in a highly populated area, so we will need to wait until nightfall before we move. It is best we attract as little attention as possible when we enter the castle." Arbiter explained. "There are several entrances into the castle. The front entrance is the most guarded and monitored, so it would be best to avoid that way in. Now, the maps show the details of the castle, but they do not say where the target itself is."
"So we just search the castle top to bottom?" Snake remarked.
"More or less. We split into small teams, and scour different areas of the castle. That is the only feasible way to scour the area quickly and thoroughly. Several small teams will enter the castle through the entrances shown here." The commander pointed so several points on the blueprints. "Dispatch of any guards you encounter as silently and quickly as possible. Silencers on all weapons."
Everyone nodded. Snake smirked. He could do all of that far quicker and with more stealth than a team of these soldiers. Arbiter caught his glance and spoke again.
"Yes Snake, you will infiltrate the castle on your own. In fact, you will help disable some of the security. Here is your entrance." Arbiter pointed to another point on the map. "Rtas, Lara and I will take another team here. Search everywhere. Keep an eye open for safes, locked doors, higher security and bookcases." For some reason, saying that sounded odd.
"Remember, stealth and speed are important. If you find this 'prognosticus'…" An image of the book was shown on a nearby screen. It was blacker than black, with several odd symbols on an otherwise blank cover. "Contact the others immediately and we will leave. Two teams will remain here on standby, to aid in our exit. One in the Master Chief, another in the drop ships and transports. You will be briefed on your respective duties and teams in an hour. Now get some rest. This may be a long night."
"My god Mindy…I was piloting this crazy robot with machine guns…friggin' machine guns! I was like Rambo, cutting through these robot things like…well, it was okay at the time, right? Just robots. And I got lots of 'em. Bangbangbang…and then I find out… they were living. Kids. KIDS! What kind of sicko sticks kids in machines and makes them…and I…I…I…this crap is getting crazy. I can't stand it. I need to play again. I need to be a musician again, not an operative. I need to get back home. I think…I think if I can…maybe I'll feel better…"
"That may be the case."
"DON'T SNEAK UP ON ME LIKE THAT!" Casey yelled at Sofia. Casey had sat down in the fishbowl diner, pretending it was a real bar where she could drink her troubles away. Grace had cleaned it up, but it still looked like a dingy, broken diner. Since there was no bartender, she made do with a voice recorder for her friend. And now Sofia Lamb had shown up.
"My apologies." Sofia nodded. That seemed to satisfy Casey, who got her breath back and turned back to bartop.
Sofia sat down right next to her. "I was a psychiatrist, Casey. You can speak to me."
The chronicler rolled her eyes. "Why should I? You just heard it." She scoffed.
"True." Sofia nodded. "Frankly though, I think you're mistaken about what exactly will help you."
"What? You mean playing music? I always feel better when I play music."
"Then why haven't you? You have a guitar." Sofia pointed out.
Casey sighed. "It's not…"
"…just that. You want to be on stage, you want to be back in your hometown. You want a situation where you're not a fish out of water. Where you're in control."
Casey blinked. "Eh?"
"When you were…taken aboard, you were brought into a world you don't know about or understand, and it seems you have no real purpose or use. That's why you are so restless. I've seen it with Link, as well. A feeling of unease due to unfamiliarity and uncertainty. Link was most comfortable when he was in Hyrule, when he was in an element he understood and knew. You saw that yourself. I think the same could be said for you."
Casey shrugged. "That makes sense, I guess…"
"Of course, part of life is accepting the new and unfamiliar. Dealing with it, adapting, growing. Recognizing that you are not always in control. That the world does not bow to your every whim."
Casey smirked. "You found that out for yourself, didn't you?"
Sofia sighed sadly. "Yes, I did."
"And I should learn too? Just deal with it, just like that?" Casey muttered bitterly.
"Yes, but the recent mission has…damaged you. I can tell. And I think that it would help if you were put in a situation where you are the expert. Where you have a sense of control and purpose. Where you're more comfortable. It would go a long way to making you feel better."
"And how I'm gonna do that? I'm a musician, not a soldier."
"There is a lead I want to investigate…"
Casey groaned. "Another mission? Figures. Look, I'm really not in the mood for another…"
"In Las Venturas. Your home."
Casey blinked. There was a moment's silence before she spoke again. "Okay, you got my attention…"
"Business has dried up at the shooting grounds. I don't know why. Marty says it's because of the plasmids, but that's stupid. Who would pass over a reliable firearm for that genetic malarkey? Besides, if these plasmids could do what I've heard, more people would come to test them out, shooting at the targets. Right now, nobody comes here, and the few that do don't stay for long. Why?"
"That's the worst aim I've ever seen!"
"Go back to thethethethe carnival!"
"Come on, you can do better than that-better than that-better than that!"
"Maybe with more practise, you can fire as well as the other guy!"
Aven had enough. He had already had a lousy afternoon, not helped by his last assignment, and that cursed automatic announcer was only adding to the problem. Why wouldn't it shut up? Why did it keep comparing him to Link? Why did it have nothing better to do that insult him? Why couldn't he aim better? WHY WOULDN'T IT BE QUIET!?!
Aven had figured out that the voice was coming from a black circle on one of the shooting gallery's walls. The elite stormed over to the circle, fuming in pure frustration-induced rage. If the voice had a body, he would've gladly snapped it in two and stuffed it's targets down his throat. However, he had to make do with ripping the circle and multiple wires out.
Link watched as the Sangheili ranted and tore at the cables and wires as the annoying voice sputtered out of existence. Aven went all out, peeling the cords apart with his thick figures and reaching into the hole to pull out more stuff to rip apart. Wire after cable after cord was rapidly destroyed.
The minor elite laughed with joy and satisfaction as that goddamned voice was silenced for good…and then realized the swordsman was watching him with a rather bewildered expression. Aven tried to regain his dignity, flicking the wrecked wires off his arm. "You…would have done the same…" Aven babbled. "If your aim had been…well…hehehe…"
Link shook his head, smiling slightly. Truth be told, he wanted to do that himself. He wanted to do…something.
Aven and Link turned to see Sofia Lamb walking into the shooting gallery. Aven disposed of the rest of the hanging wires and tried to appear strong and dignified. Link didn't have to try to appear.
Sofia looked at Link. "You two seem restless. I think I might be able to help in that regard."
That got Link's attention, as well as Aven's.
"There is a lead I want to investigate, and I think you will be excellent assets…"
Link smiled to himself. Aven smiled under his helmet. He wanted to redeem himself after what had happened, and this seemed like just the opportunity he wanted.
"I will do my duty, you have my oath!" Aven proclaimed.
Sofia smiled. "Excellent."