Let's get the heck out of the cave people!
Despite after what it felt like hours our fun little quartet was still trapped in cave now during the sunrise, Shard had managed to find a way to get through the huge pile of rock they were under ultimately finding an exit on the side of one of the many pillar-like structures the canyon had with every member just gasping for some fresh air.
"I don't care if I'm modeled after a hedgehog! I hate being buried!" were Shard's first words after getting out of it and hovering next to the hole he made.
Silver and Larry gasped deeply, yes, but Tangle had once again the most interesting reaction. The moment the hole opened and Shard finished his one-liner, the lemur, without a second thought, jumped out of it cheering in excitement not caring for the height they were in and what a fall in a canyon could do, but it was not to worry, she also used her tail to grab onto another rock-pillar and all of this with a tremendous sense of happiness.
"Come on boys! We've got make up for lost time and track Geoffrey down!" Shard commanded after… Tangle happened "What's wrong with you two" he asked after noticing shocked faces on Silver and Larry.
"What's wrong?" exclaimed Silver "We nearly suffocated after being buried alive!"
"Oh right, that breathing thing you organics do, well, there'll be plenty of air on the way back".
"I also kept the earth stable while you tunneled us out, remember? After that and the death traps I'm gonna need a recharge!"
"We don't have time to-" Shard was interrupted by his own engine sputtering all over the place "…Right, I've got my own mortality to deal with" he said returning to the ground on a narrow ledge conveniently there "Okay, we'll all take five to recharge and recover. But for the record, I hate letting Geoffrey get away like that".
"He didn't get away scot-free!" said Larry proudly "We got the tracker on his airboard at least!"
"And are we gonna talk about the elephant in the room?" asked Shard clearly referring to Tangle.
"She didn't tell us she would react like that," Larry followed "Do we have to tell it to the Director?"
The three of them side-eyed each other with a look that could only be described as 'it won't be me'.
"Maybe it won't come up again?" said Silver
New Mobotropolis – Secret HQ – Much Later
Our lovable group was standing in a nice and neat line like soldiers each of them with their own little expression. Shard was very firm and the most soldier-like of the bunch, Silver was also very serious but looking down, Larry simply lowered his head with arms behind his back and Tangle was also firm but avoiding any eye contact all-together with clenched fists.
Avoiding Director Harvey Who, who was in front of all of them pacing around the room while giving a lecture.
"This is nothing short of ludicrous… I sent in a super badniks who fought Sonic to a stand-still. I sent a kid that can move mountains with his mind. I sent a lynx who warps probability just by standing there. And I sent a lemur who can destroy badniks with her tail… And all four of you couldn't stop one skunk?!"
"Well… When you put it that way-" Shard mumbled.
"Granted he was a magical skunk," Silver tried to explain it for his team "Who was also trained since he was a boy, the rest of us are new to covert operations, and we did plant a tracker on his airboard".
"And? Where did it lead?"
"He went straight for the pit in New Mobotropolis" he added with the help of a hologram that indicated the place.
"Why would there be a pit in the middle of a city?" asked Tangle.
"An attack from a bunch of birds" said Shard pretty much over-simplifying it.
"So… right back to the city where we started from" Larry commented under a sigh.
"No more than that," said Harvey "Agent King's team tracked Naugus to the same location when you went after St. John".
"And what did they find?" asked Silver.
"I don't know. They've not returned. And that is a concern. Hmm, ancient totems, great attention to the underground… He must be plotting something big".
"Maybe they were at risk of getting spotted and had to lay low?" suggested the hedgehog.
"Or maybe Naugus found them and made sure they'd never report in" suggested the robot hedgehog.
"Or maybe they've tried to communicate but… it stopped working?" suggested the lemur.
"Knowing our luck so far" Larry concluded the suggestions.
"Search that pit to the bottom!" commanded the Director "I want our agents brought back..! They got work to do".
With their orders clear, the team set out of their base and into –literally- the heart of the city with Silver now carrying two of the four members of his team all the way down to the pit The Battle Bird Armada left from their attack and I gotta tell you, it was a very deep pit, so deep that once you reached the bottom the light of the sun was very little and it was all mostly shadow.
"Engaging infra-red vision" announced Shard.
"Oh, please let someone be alive" said Lynx trying to spot anyone.
"Hello?" Silver called " Anyone down there? Anyone friendly? Jack, I can't see who-"
"Whoa, ladies! Stand down… Agent Ace?" said a different but familiar and friendly voice emerging from the shadows slowly revealing himself to be none other than Elias Acorn commanding his team to tune down the offensive approach "You're a sight for sore eyes!"
"Are you badly hurt?" Silver asked.
"No. The wing-suits got us down safely-" Leetaexplained.
"Safely enough!" her sister reproached.
"-But we had no way of climbing all the way out or making sure Naugus wasn't coming back for us".
"So he did find you" Larry confirmed the statement.
"Yeah, something's happening to him, he's changing…" Elias said a bit worried remembering the situation "But more importantly we found him constructing some kind of ritual room under the royal military headquarters".
"Well, he sent Geoffrey to rob the crypt of some ancient Ixis wizard and bring the remains back here" Silver said explaining the details of his mission.
"So… a ritual room and ancient remains," Larry tried to pick up the pieces "He's putting together some kind of spell?"
"And it's either going to affect the military or the Council of Acorn," the chipmunk commented "My guess is on the Council. There's no way he's happy sharing power. If he were to control the military he could overthrow the council, or eliminate the military and leave only Team Freedom to resist him".
"Or maybe he's just got an old recipe for quiche, a really old recipe" added Shard.
"You know guys…" interrupted Tangle who had tried to keep up with everything they were saying "I'm still the new girl here and there are quite a few words here and there that I'm not so sure I understand them all… Who is this council we're talking about or why is so important-"
"They're the one who call the shots," Shard cleared up right into the point "If you control them, then you call the shots… which is something a megalomaniac like him would want".
"Oh… this might be late but who exactly is Naugus? Or how does he look like?".
"Don't worry," said Lyco "You'll recognize when you see him".
"What matters now is that we've got an idea of what Naugus is up to," Elias resumed his lead "But I don't see how his elemental sorcery or shadow-melding could factor in here. We need answers if we're going to make an informed move. We need to interrogate Geoffrey! He's proven he's slippery; he's got the jump on Sonic weeks ago and evaded Agent Ace's team. So, it's going to take us all striking at once to take him down. And I mean hard".
"Yeah, time for some payback!" Larry cheered.
"Or I could just ask him" calmly suggested Silver taking everyone by surprise.
"Forget it, he already knows you're against him. There's no way he'd willingly give information up".
"I think I can appeal to his better senses".
"He has no better senses! He's a filthy back-stabbing-"
"You're letting this get personal. Let Ace have his say" Lyco stopped him easing the situation.
"I just think… Look," the hedgehog replied mentally preparing what he needed to say "I know what it's like to throw everything into a plan with the best intentions and for it to, well, fall apart. I've heard in previous times I've been that Geoffrey said he wants be government for his people, and most of his life he grew on Naugus teachings… I think he was out to do good and maybe this isn't turning out like he planned. It's hard to back out of a thing like that and he doesn't has a team to fall back on like I do now".
After a listening to what Silver said and short period of thought, Elias accepted and ultimately gave in to the speech.
"Okay, we'll try it your way first. Ask him… But if he doesn't cooperate we move in" he replied now more rational about it.
"You got it".
But there was someone else in the cave, hiding in the shadows it gave and the many hiding spots it had, being there since the very moment they arrived listening to every single word they've said all in order to gather information, AKA, spying on the team and knowing their next move. But this also meant that this person heard what Silver just said and knew what they were going to do.
And that person was Geoffrey St. John
Much later on that same day –approximately around noon- Geoffrey was just casually chilling on a bench in front of a lake in the city that went by the name of 'Lake of Rings' surrounding by a few trees spread around the area. Silver approached him this time without any fancy uniform. Just him and Geoffrey
"Good morning commander" he said with his arms crossed standing next to him.
"G'Day, sorry about that bit of business the other day. Nothing personal" the skunk replied with smugness.
"You buried us alive".
"All part of the job kid. Besides, you have a modified Metal Sonic on your side, I think the deck was stacked me… Ace".
"How did you-?!" Silver broke his seriousness going into a low-mode panic "I never said-! Not that I'm confirming… or- or… denying".
"You wanted to talk… Sit. Talk" Geoffrey said offering a space for Silver to sit on the bench.
"Okay, I'm bad at being a secret agent, I'll be direct- I've done a lot of research on you since I came back this time".
"Fascinating reading, I'm sure".
"Yes, honestly. And from all the stuff I've read on all the stuff you've done I've come to this conclusion: You'd never intentionally bring harm to the city or its citizens. I think you'd do what you think is right and whatever Naugus is cooking up isn't 'right'… I'm sure your wife would agree if she was here".
One look of disapproval from Geoffrey was all it took that showed him that he shouldn't have used that little card.
"Low blow, I know! But you know what I mean! She wouldn't have been on board with any of this".
It didn't took much reflection from the skunk to analyze Silver's words, it's not like there wasn't much to unpack, maybe using his dead wife was not good to take advantage from, but that didn't put him in the wrong.
"You're right," he said after sighing "But it's too late for me".
"You can still save the city!" the hedgehog replied taken a bit back "Tell me-"
"Naugus is casting a spell tonight as the council gathers to ratify the new constitution".
"Wh… okay, to do what?"
"Take control of them. Probably everyone in the room, don't let it happen".
"Wait! Help us!"
"Like I said, it's too late for me, you've got a future to save I… don't. See you around kid".
Having already made up his mind, Silver let Geoffrey go with him just standing there wishing he could have been able to fully convince him to switch but he gave what they wanted so that was good for the mission itself.
"Will that do Agent King?" he asked
"Yeah," Elias dropped from one of the trees once the skunk disappeared from the scene "Okay, team… stand down".
One by one, all the members slowly revealed themselves with Larry hidden under a fake-rock, Leeta, Lyco & Tangle also coming down from trees nearby and Shard coming out of the pond with all of them having listened to the full conversation
Now that they had the exact information they needed, it was time for the final preparations and planning, it was mostly relegated to the two leaders of the Secret Freedom Fighters: Harvey Who and Elias Acorn, both of them contributing to the creation of the team but neither would have been able to make it without the other.
"Kudos to Silver, I would have never tried the direct approach," the owl said staring at holograms of the data they had "I would have never let Geoffrey go either!"
"Not my first choice, but he seems volatile," the chipmunk replied next to him "If he falls apart that could help us as much as it'd hurt Naugus".
"By Jove, I'll mold in my image, yet".
"Out of our two targets one is very crowded and the other is very lethal. If we can't stop Naugus we'll need a very low profile 'plan B'… I still wish we could just tell the people what's happening".
"Naugus would cave in the chamber and cover his tracks, while Nicole, Sir Charles and the rest of us would be tried for treason," Harvey said it very quickly as if he has practiced it "No, we do this silently and let the people live happily oblivious… I'll finalize your deployments. Rest while you can, you go into action in a couple of hours".
And after that couple of hours had passed, our team was more than ready already gearing and suiting up –suits that Tangle still found odd- and all of them knowing what their roles were for this final mission.
"Let's go Secret Freedom Fighters…" commanded Elias "We'll stop Naugus, save the city or die trying!"
"That's an option?" Tangle commented to herself
We're done here! Next time it will be the finale which may or may not come out on the next Thursday but we'll see, I'm working on the main story as well and some academic stuff sprinkled around.
See you soon!