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Gone Rogue is a story that was started by a user some time ago, but wasn't completed, and may never be completed. We're sorry for the inconvenience! However, feel free to look here to read completed stories!
|Start||January 7, 2019|
Would you risk it all to do what must be done?
- To uncover the truth?
- To do what's right?
- To stand strong in the face of adversity?
This is his story.
Prologue: Justice is Served
It was a crisp, cold January morning. The Christmas season had just wrapped up, and creatures across Antarctica were waking up for their first day back to work. The same went for politicians; After a long, comfortable Christmas break, president Lavender had gotten back to work. His first order of business was none other than a groundbreaking ceremony.
Lavender was assembled atop a podium alongside Snowstormer, the governor of Eastern Shops. They were deep in the Mario Mountains, at the site of a new dam which was about to begin construction. Lavender and Snowstormer's roles were purely ceremonial, but it was a pivotal project. Lavender's government had invested hundreds of millions of WB$ into improving Shops Island's hydroelectric infrastructure, and this new dam was the keystone of that commitment.
Lavender: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to commemorate the beginning of one of the largest public works projects in Shopper History. The Chad Thunderbeak Memorial Dam will produce an astonishing amount of electricity for the state of Eastern Shops and surrounding areas. This new dam will create 12,000 jobs in greater Eastern Shops, Bro Town, Penguin City, and the surrounding areas. My government is more than happy to support such a project, as we know it's for a very good cause! I believe that this project will inspire prosperity beyond the four years of work contracted, and that such a large effort will attract settlement into the area and will make this state even more powerful and vibrant than it already is. Thank you for your time, and remember:"
The small crowd gathered for the speech chanted out what they expected Lavender to say:
"Never, Never, Never Give Up!"
- "So be it: You have been sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against penguinkind."
The courtroom sat silent. Members of the prosecution jostled around happily in their seats. Members of the defense slouched in their seats, hanging their heads in defeat.
Yet another convicted terrorist who fought in the Antarctic War on Terror had just been sentenced by the Antarctic Tribunal of Justice. It was a criminal court that had been established just a few months ago, in July of 2018, after three years of debate and negotiation within the UAN. The concept of an international tribunal was first conceived after the Pengslo Trials and the Vonkouver Trials, and was modeled strongly after the latter. Most UAN nations had agreed that the tribunal's decisions would be legally binding, and many powerful countries such as the USA stated that they were willing to use military force to uphold these decisions.
The Antarctic Tribunal of Justice, often abbreviated as the ATJ, had been making news quite a bit recently. Many high-level criminals from the Antarctic War on Terrorism had been convicted without much push-back and these convictions were widely praised. However, many observers also considered the ATJ to engage in "activist justice".
- The tribunal tried to bring King Carlos to court for crimes committed by Franco's regime committed in 1975.
- They tried to prosecute Simon McClark for actions committed by his predecessor during the Snowinn Civil War.
- They had attempted to charge Lavender for his involvement in the Great Yowien War.
Luckily, none of these activist moves had succeeded, but nonetheless many of Antarctica's top politicians were on edge about being brought in front of the tribunal and actually being found guilty. Everyone was scared and on their best behavior. Leaks were being crushed harder than ever. Every leader in Antarctica was trying their darnedest to keep their records as clean as possible, for they knew there were consequences to be had if they even had a connection to crimes of the past.
Everyone was on edge, especially Lavender.
"Hey Bro, I'm home!"
Bro's pet puffle, Roebling, had just come back from a dangerous reconnaissance mission in Snowzerland on behalf of the SIA. Roebling had recently joined the SIA in an elite puffle division. He was rising the ranks quickly due to his connections to the former Shopper president. He hopped into the kitchen, where Bro was eating breakfast.
Bro: "How'd your mission go, buddy?"
Roebling: "I collected a lot of intel about Snoss garrisons in Zurich and sent that info the the PFLS. They're saying that they're planning on staging an attack soon, so my division head said that I may very well be sent back sometime soon."
Bro: "Well, that's cool. You think you'll be home for my birthday?"
Roebling: "I wouldn't miss that for the world, Bro; you know that!"
Bro: "I know bud, I'm just teasing you. You look tired - go get some sleep!"
Roebling: "Okay. I'll come down later. See ya."
Bro: "Get some rest - you deserve it!"
Chapter One: Breaking News
Construction on the new dam was well underway soon after Lavender's groundbreaking ceremony. The first order of business in the construction process was to carve two diversion tunnels through the mountains flanking either side of the river. These diversion tunnels would be used to re-route the water past the dam site while it was being built. Boring holes for diversion tunnels was a tough process, and the contractor ended up using a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), which was essentially a massive self-propelled drill, to get the job done.
Luckily, the rock that was being bored through was of rather low-quality and the contractor was making quick work out of boring the tunnels on both sides of the river. Everything was going swimmingly, and the project was ahead of schedule. That is, until the crew on the North side of the river came across an unexpected obstacle.
TBM Operator: "Huh, this is strange..."
Inspector: "What is it?"
TBM Operator: "This part of the tunnel is breaking through much more easily."
Inspector: "The geotechnical investigations showed that resistance should be standard for fractured granite."
TBM Operator: "I mean, I'm not complaining. It allows me to get my job done faster."
Inspector: "Regardless, you'd be best advised to stop drilling for a bit while I go out and see what's up."
The operator temporarily stopped drilling, and the inspector hopped outside of the TBM to see what was causing the lack of resistance. The crew's foreman didn't take long to see that something was wrong. He confronted the inspector wondering why he had stopped the drilling.
Foreman: "What in blazes are you doing? Why are we not drilling? Do you have any idea how much these stupid shutdowns cost us!?"
Inspector: "Just hold on. Give me that pickaxe over there."
The foreman handed the inspector a pickaxe which was sitting by the tunnel wall. He started hacking away at the rock face, much to the foreman's disapproval.
Foreman: "You must be joking."
Inspector: "Be quiet, this is serious-"
With just a few swings of the pickaxe, the inspector broke down a large section of the rock face. On the other side was a cavern, which was not accounted for during the initial investigations. Everyone was quite intrigued. The inspector crawled into the cavern and pulled out a flashlight; he couldn't believe his eyes.
Inspector: "By Jove, look at these carvings on the walls! They look ancient! How could we have not known these were here?"
Foreman: "There were no records of any obstructions of voids in the rock according to the contract. You better believe we're gonna charge you up the wazoo for this delay!"
Inspector: "These look like historical artifacts. By law, I must order a stop to the work until this site can be properly investigated."
Foreman: "You've got to be kidding me..."
Meanwhile, in Shops City, president Lavender was in the middle of a meeting with delegates from the Common Legislature, as part of his weekly tradition to keep the legislative leadership up to date on domestic and international issues.
Lavender: "Any word on that pesky UAN tribunal?"
Advisor: "Nothing new on that front, sir. At least, nothing that would pose a problem for us."
Lavender: "Oh? Please, do elaborate."
Chief of Staff: "Presumably, yes."
Advisor: "Yes, sir. March 15th is the tentative date."
Lavender: "Excellent. Be sure to get the kitchen to order up a couple crates of orange juice. I would hate to see such a distinguished diplomat go thirsty under my watch."
Advisor: "Yes, sir."
LMGT: "Hey Lavender, can you come with us for a minute?"
Lavender: "Certainly. Excuse me, gentlemen."
Lavender waddled out of the conference room, and began to walk down the hallway alongside LMGT.
Lavender: "If you pulled me out of my weekly briefing, something big must be going on. What's new?"
LMGT: "We're getting reports from the Chad Thunderbeak dam project; work has temporarily been halted."
Lavender: "I don't see why that warranted dragging me out of a meeting, LMGT. Care to explain?"
LMGT: "It's classified. I'd prefer we not talk about it out in the open."
Lavender: "Okay, we'll go the Triangle Office and talk about it, then."
The president and SIA director made their way towards Lavender's prestigious office, which was the centerpiece of the whole administrative complex in Shops City Square. Clearly something big had been uncovered if it justified pulling Lavender out of one of his most important weekly briefings.
Bro was with his puffle Roebling in his kitchen. It was dinner time, and they were watching the evening news while eating, as is tradition. Bro had tried cooking "roast duck", a new delicacy which had recently become quite popular across Shops Island. There was a slight problem, however: Bro was a terrible cook, and as such had burnt and charred the duck far beyond a simple "roast". He grabbed the food off the frying skillet, and served it for himself and Roebling.
Roebling: "Are you seeing this news, Bro? They discovered something at this new dam!"
Bro: "Yes, Roebling. I just heard the headline, too. I don't see the big deal about it... It's just a few tunnels, anyone could have put those there."
Roebling: "If they're hiring archaeologists for it, it must be pretty important."
Bro: "Why, are you thinking about signing up?"
Roebling: "I was considering it."
Bro: "Fine by me, as long as you aren't dragging a bunch of fossils in the house and dirtying up the place. Also, how do you like the roast duck?"
Roebling: "It's bloody awful."
Bro: "Thanks, I worked hard to cook it! Ungrateful fluffball, why i ought to..."
Roebling: "What was that?"
Bro: "Nothing. I'll try not to burn it as much next time."
Lavender and LMGT made their way to the Triangle Office and shut the door behind them. Lavender sat down at his desk, and LMGT stood across from him with a folder full of investigative information.
LMGT: "So, as I was saying, some doods at the dam project found some old caves and caverns hidden in the rock."
Lavender: "That doesn't sound very classified to me."
LMGT: "It isn't by itself, but they're currently starting an archaeological investigation into the matter, and intelligence says that they're finding some evidence of... uhh..."
Lavender: "The tribes?"
LMGT: "Yeah, that."
Lavender: "I can't believe it... even seven years after we got rid of him, Ben's idiocy is still coming back to bite us."
LMGT: "I'll keep you updated as more information comes in, sir."
Lavender: "Thank you, LMGT."
LMGT: "No problem. Now if you excuse me, there should be a platter of donuts waiting in my office!"
LMGT grabbed his files and waddled out the door, but not before Lavender could stop to ask him a small request:
"Oh, one more thing, LMGT!"
LMGT: "What's that?"
Lavender: "Could you send Striker in? I'd like to discuss these matters with him."
LMGT: "Uhh... yes, sir. Right away, sir."
LMGT waddled out the door, although he was quite confused. "Striker", Lavender's new Chief of Staff, was not given top-level security clearance. "Meh, whatever, not my job" he thought, as he went to fulfill the president's wishes.
The next morning, Bro had dropped Roebling off at the base camp near the Chad Thunderbeak Memorial Dam. This is where a rag-tag team of archaeologists and journalists was being assembled to investigate the cryptic artifacts found in the diversion tunnels. As soon as he arrived, one peculiar penguin piqued his attention. Roebling recognized him right away from photos that Bro had shown him; it was Fisch Hochstadt!
Fisch was one of Antarctica's best-known archaeologists. His crowning achievement was discovering the lost Viking city of Asgard, although he had been involved in many investigations since then. Roebling couldn't help but to introduce himself.
"Hi there, I'm Roebling!"
Fisch: "Oh, hello there. I'm Fisch Hochstadt. Are you an archaeologist or a journalist?"
Roebling: "Neither; I'm just a curious puffle looking for adventure."
Roebling: "Only for two years, I was adopted by former-president Bro a while back while he was vacationing in Club Penguin."
Fisch: "Bro? I remember back when I met him. He really is a weird fellow sometimes."
Fisch: "So, Roebling, care to be my partner on this expedition? I sense that there's plenty of history here to uncover."
Roebling: "I'd love to!"
"You called for me, sir?"
Lavender: "Yes, Albert. LMGT was just in here and he gave me some troubling news."
Albert: "What is it? Defectors? Turncoats? Penstubal?"
Lavender: "No, this is much worse. Here, take a look at this."
Lavender waddled over to one of his filing cabinets at the far end of his office. He dug far back into the "S" category, and pulled out a large, dusty file folder full of pictures and redacted documents. He gave it to Albert, who flipped through it slowly and with great intrigue.
Albert: "They've found evidence?"
Lavender: "Not yet. I'm just playing it safe right now, before someone does find something incriminating. But of course, we need to get ahead of this."
Albert: "How do you propose of that?"
Lavender waddled over beside the filing cabinets and opened up his safe. He pulled out a couple wads of WB$ bills and gave them to Albert."
Lavender: "Go to the hardware store and buy plenty of hardhats and jackhammers. Round up as many purple penguins as you can find. I'm not going to let a petty leak like this get in the way of our more important plans."
Albert: "Yes, sir. Right away."
Albert excused himself from the Triangle Office, and was off to do the president's bidding. Lavender lingered in the middle of the office for a moment; he seemed to be pondering something deeply. He was all alone in the office, without distractions or preoccupation, free to think as deeply as he pleased without interruption.
Then, he paused.
Lavender looked up from his train of thought, and stared where he'd never stared before.
Are you scared?
Yes, I can hear you, Yes, I can see you. For years I've pretended you just weren't there, because it was convenient.
But, if you haven't noticed, everything's changed.
That man that was just in here. That's "Mister" Albert Striker, my new Chief of Staff. He does the dirty work so I don't have to... most of the time.
I don't know if you watch the news, but I was shot last month. Now, you've followed me for years, and you're probably thinking "what could a bullet wound possibly change?"
That's where you're wrong, though. This changes everything.
I'm not going to dwell on the details too much, I know you're smart enough to put together the pieces like you have before. All I have to say is buckle up, this is going to be a wild ride.
Chapter Two: The Coverup
A few days after they'd met, Roebling and Fisch had decided to pitch a tent together at the dam's base camp, as both were eager and intelligent investigators. However, as they woke up one morning, they were interrupted by the rather unfortunate news that the Purple Republic had struck at the dam site, prompting the SIA to get involved and to temporarily halt the investigation.
Roebling: "Well that sucks, we were just getting started, too!"
Fisch: "Yes indeed... from the little bit of stuff I saw inside those caves, it certainly looked interesting."
Roebling: "Why would the Purple Republic of all groups launch an attack, though?"
Fisch: "I don't know, but something certainly doesn't feel right about this."
Roebling: "What do you mean by that?"
Fisch: "Roebling, my brother is a dictator. This seems like something that would "conveniently" happen in Snowzerland under his watch. I feel like someone is trying to cover something big up, and to keep it out of the public eye."
Roebling: "Yeah, but who would do something like that? They're just some caves in the mountains, they can't possibly be that important to anyone who's still alive."
Fisch: "You never know, people sometimes have strange motives."
The Penstubal Post's headline was bold and brief, although completely false as usual. A copy of the post was being slid under the door of every subscriber in an apartment building in Mylou as morning rose over the Ninja Archipelago. One of these apartments happened to belong to Ben 100022 former President of Shops Island, who had since been exiled.
Although he was briefly captured by Terrain forces in 2015, his connections to the Snoss regime had managed to get him out of jail and back to his comfortable home in Mylou. He was rooming with his good friend Kur Rising, someone who had never moved to Shops Island but was still familiar with its early history.
Kur Rising: "Hey Ben, you aren't going to like this."
Ben: "What is it? Did somebody else add me to their hate list?"
Kur Rising: "No, it's worse. They might put you away for good if this one leaks."
Kur Rising handed Ben the newspaper and flipped to one of the mid-section headlines.
Ben: "And this is in that mountain range in Eastern Shops..."
Kur Rising: "Yes it is. You know what that means, right?"
Ben looked up blankly from the newspaper and rolled it up into a ball. He angrily threw it across the room, and stormed out of his apartment. Ben knew that someone was about to uncover evidence of one of his most heinous crimes committed as President of Shops Island, something that he and subsequent administrations had tried hard to sweep under the rug for years now.
Ben: "I thought this was under control BEFORE I left that wretched island!"
Kur Rising: "What are you going to do, just go back to Shops Island and try to cover this up yourself?"
Ben: "Well, we don't have much of a choice, now do we?"
Kur Rising: "Oh well, I might as well come for the adventure."
"Mister President, the SIA Director is here."
"Let him in."
Lavender was sitting in the Triangle Office, where he was greeted by Mister Albert and LMGT, who came with the news that the Purple Republic had attacked the Chad Thunderbeak Memorial Dam's investigation site.
LMGT: "I assume you've already heard about the attack from your daily briefing?"
Lavender: "Yes, I have. How unfortunate this whole thing is... all these delays are really pushing the project behind schedule."
LMGT: "The SIA would like to open up a formal investigation into the incident, we just need your approval to start on it."
Lavender: "That's a good idea. Seeing as how this entire dam is my "pet project" of sorts, I think it would be best if I oversaw this investigation directly."
LMGT: "With all due respect, Mr. President, the SIA is my jurisdiction."
Lavender: "I'm well aware of that. Nonetheless, I believe that I should oversee such an important matter personally. Thank you for your time, LMGT, I'll talk this over further with Albert."
LMGT: "I'm sorry, Lavender, but I can't in good conscience-"
Lavender got up out of his seat and loomed over LMGT. His message was clear as day and he didn't wish to be challenged.
"Thank you. For. Your time."
LMGT just sat there, unsure of what to think. Normally Lavender wouldn't act like this.
Lavender: "Striker, please show LMGT out. I'm sure he's got plenty of work to do."
LMGT: "I can show myself out, thank you Albert."
LMGT got up and waddled out of the room; he was both worried and confused. Lavender's vested interest in personally overseeing the investigation was unusual. Mister Albert also got up and followed LMGT out of the office, leaving Lavender to his lonesome.
As LMGT was waddling down the halls of the Presidential Residence, he was stopped by Mister Albert, who was clearly not pleased with LMGT's concerned tone around Lavender.
"LMGT! We need to talk."
LMGT: "Oh, yo dood. What do you need?"
Albert: "I'm going to tell you something and I'm only going to tell you once. You serve at the pleasure of the president, and you will not defy him! You will not embarrass him! Your job is not to suggest alternatives to his plans, but to aid them! Do you understand?"
LMGT was perplexed, as Lavender had previously never had any issues about LMGT giving his two cents on a pressing issue. He and Mister Albert had worked together for a long time at the SIA, and even though they never exactly saw eye-to-eye this was still quite extreme for Albert.
LMGT: "Uhhh... yeah, sure dood. Whatever you say. I don't need any trouble."
Albert: "Times are changing, "donut dood". If you don't tow the line, there will be consequences."
LMGT: "Such as...?"
Albert: "It would be a real shame if all of your food expenses were somehow leaked to the press, wouldn't it?"
Albert: "Or how you chartered a bunch of flights around Antarctica last year on the taxpayer's dime?"
LMGT was getting fed up with Albert's condescending and threatening tone. He decided to just end the conversation there to save his sanity.
"I understand fully, Mr. Striker. Thank you. I'll be leaving now."
Albert: "Tread lightly, LMGT. There's a new sheriff in town, and the same nonsense that used to fly before won't anymore."
LMGT just waddled away and tried to ignore Mister Albert. He remarked to himself: "Geez, he must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed or something."
- RING RING RING RING
"Quiet, Leonardo! Let me take this call. Hola! Que es?"
Fisch (COMM): "Clovis! How's it going?"
Clovis: "I'm good, Fisch. Toledo is beautiful this time of year, you should visit more often!"
Fisch (COMM): "I wish I could, but I'm kind of busy right now. I'm in Shops Island doing an archaeological investigation."
Clovis: "Oh? Do you need help?"
Leonardo: "Don't say that! Don't you remember what happened last time he dragged us on one of his investigations?"
Fisch (COMM): "I wasn't going to drag you guys on another adventure, but I could still use a hand."
Leonardo: "Here we go again..."
Clovis: "Please be quiet, Leonardo! It's been a while since we've done anything interesting. What did you have in mind, Fisch?"
Fisch (COMM): "You guys still have connections with the Shopper government, right?"
Clovis: "Yeah, King Carlos has Lavender's cellphone number on speed-dial."
Fisch (COMM): "Excellent. It would be a big help to me if you guys could do some digging around Shops City for me. I feel like someone high-up in government is trying to cover up whatever I'm trying to investigate here. If you could prod around the upper echelons of the political class it'd help out a lot."
Clovis: "Sounds like fun, Fisch. We'll see what we can do."
Fisch (COMM): "Thanks, brother. I knew I could count on you!"
Leonardo: "So I guess I should pack my bags?"
Clovis: "Yep. I'll call the airline. It's been a while since we've been to Shops Island, hasn't it?"
Leonardo: "Yes it has. I wonder what it's like now."
The next day, Clovis and Leonardo had made their way to Shops City. Due to their close connections, they had managed to charm their way into getting a one-on-one meeting with President Lavender. Unbeknownst to them, however, Lavender already knew why they were coming, as he had men on the inside. As he was making his way towards the Triangle Office for his meeting with Clovis and Leonardo, he was chatting with Mister Albert.
Lavender: "So our field agents say that Fisch is one of the head investigators at the site."
Albert: "Yes, I heard that too. Are you sure it's a good idea to meet with his brother right now? It might compromise our position."
Lavender: "This isn't my first time going down this path, Albert. I have the situation under control. Please, go to the situation room and make sure our guests are comfortable while I deal with these two."
Albert: "Right away, sir."
Mister Albert scurried off and went towards the Situation Room, which was the president's personal command hub for all military and diplomatic matters.
Lavender closed the door behind him as he barged into the Triangle Office. Clovis and Leonardo were already waiting there, on the couch. Lavender sat down on the couch opposite to them after exchanging pleasantries.
Clovis: "Mister President, it's good to see you!"
Lavender: "Clovis Hochstadt. It's been a while. I'm sorry I can't stick around longer, I have a lot on my plate right now."
Clovis: "Yes, I understand. I just wanted to catch base with what is going on right now in current affairs."
Leonardo: "King Carlos sends his regards once again to you for that assassination attempt in December."
Lavender: "Yes, thank you, Leonardo. But surely you didn't come all the way here just to tell me about that?"
Leonardo: "No, sir. We were also watching with keen eyes the whole ordeal that's unfolding at the "Chad Thunderbeak" Memorial Dam."
Lavender: "Oh, that. It's quite a peculiar situation, isn't it? I name one landmark after a controversial hockey player, and suddenly everything starts going awry!"
Clovis: "Yes, but we're more concerned with the artifacts that are being investigated right now."
Lavender: "Oh, that's right."
Clovis: "We have a vested interest in the matter, Mr. President."
Lavender: "Clovis, if you're worried about your brother, you shouldn't be."
Lavender: "I'm sure he'll manage just fine, even if his investigation is being delayed by the SIA."
Clovis: "That may be, but there's still the very disturbing precedent of-"
Suddenly, Mister Albert interrupted the meeting. He had an urgent message for Lavender.
Albert: "Mister President, you're needed in the situation room urgently."
Lavender: "Really, Striker? I'm in the middle of a meeting!"
Albert: "Apparently Amigopen needs our help. Please, come quickly."
Clovis: "Oh, I'm sorry Lavender. I guess we can come back some other time that works better for-"
Lavender: "No, you two stay right there. I'm not done with you yet."
As Lavender and Mister Albert made their way to the situation room, they had a brief discussion.
Lavender: "Good timing like that is exactly what I pay you for, Striker. You just dodged a bullet for me."
Albert: "All in a day's work, sir."
Lavender: "So, Amigopen's already butchered the talks, eh?"
Albert: "Just as we expected. President McClark is trying to bend him over backwards with treaty clauses and special provisions up the wazoo."
Lavender: "We'll straighten that out."
Lavender and Mister Albert barged into the Situation Room. Everyone stood at attention as soon as the president came in the door.
Lavender: "Please, sit down."
All of Lavender's chief military staff including General Lorn, Baron von Broseef and Captain Swaggins were present for these discussions. Amigopen was in a group phone call with Simon McClark and Acadian President Brant Esser. Albert had briefly muted the line so that he could fetch Lavender.
Amigopen: "What's with the pictures?"
Albert: "Making your enemies look weak always makes negotiating with them easier."
Amigopen: "Ah, I see."
Once everyone was seated and done with their small-talk, Mister Albert reconnected the call, and was greeted by a very agitated Simon McClark.
McClark (COMM): "King Amigopen, you must understand that a rushed exit from the Western Union like this doesn't give us the time to properly conduct all of our diplomatic cutoffs. This will hurt YOUR country much more than it'll hurt ours."
Amigopen: "Uh... yeah. I understand that, but-"
"This is President Lavender speaking."
McClark (COMM): "Get off the line, Lavender. You aren't a part of these negotiations. We will only speak to Amigopen, the sole legitimate representative of-"
"You will speak to me."
Brant (COMM): "Recuse yourself from this call, Lavender, or else we hang up!"
"Oh, I don't think you'll want to hang up. I have five carrier strike groups patrolling Sub-Antarctic waters as we speak, I'm fully willing to utilize them to help Amataria's cause."
McClark (COMM): "Don't threaten us. It won't work."
"Are you really sure that's a bet worth taking? You both know full well I'm crazy enough to actually use what I have at my disposal."
Amigopen: "Also, this isn't an official diplomatic talk! I can choose to have Lavender as a representative if I so wish."
McClark (COMM): "Your attempts to bully us won't work, Lavender. We're trying to be reasonable and cordial here, and your reckless games will get us nowhere! All we're asking for is TIME to conduct a proper exit from the Western Union. Otherwise we'll be left with no choice but to leave Amataria without a deal at all."
"You will do no such thing. You are not going to leave Amataria to die in the wilderness like some wounded animal, and this divorce will be mutually beneficial for both parties."
Brant (COMM): "We're trying to be reasonable here, Lavender. Your threats won't intimidate us."
"I am not going to stand idly by and let a close ally be worn down by attrition. You will give favorable terms to Amataria, and we will ALL forget any of this ever happened. Trade relations shall not be disturbed by this petty breakup, nor will diplomatic ties. Amigopen has chosen me and the other Axle Powers leaders as his representative, and we will use every tool in our arsenal to assist him."
McClark (COMM): "That's a complete non-starter! The WU Charter doesn't allow for-"
"Either you negotiate with me, or there are no negotiations at all, be it formal or informal. Amataria's economy and foreign relations will not be hurt by their exit from the union, and you will immediately cease any threats towards Amigopen. He has every right to withdraw his country from the Western Union if he so wishes without suffering blow-back from your stupid political games and bureaucracy."
Brant (COMM): "Now you're just being ridiculous."
"If you don't agree to my terms, these negotiations are over and I will terminate the conference. You have ten seconds to reconsider."
McClark (COMM): "You have no business bossing us around like this, Lavender, and-"
"End the call."
Mister Albert disconnected the phone call. Everyone slumped over in their chairs. Lavender turned to Amigopen.
Lavender: "I'm sorry it had to come to this, but they were just going to bully you around until you sacrificed every bit of leverage you had to them."
Amigopen: "Thank you, Lavender. I trust that we'll have better luck in the Axle Minor?"
Lavender: "Yes. Free trade is guaranteed and we won't pressure you into signing a million stupid treaties trying to change your government."
Amigopen: "Sounds good to me!"
Lavender: "I'll let my military staff brief you on Axle Powers defense measures. I wish I could stay around, but I have some esteemed guests waiting in the Triangle Office."
Soon after, Lavender waddled back into the Triangle Office and took a seat opposite Clovis and Leonardo once again.
Clovis: "Anyway Mr. President, as I was saying, it sure feels like there's some sort of coverup underway at the dam in Eastern Shops."
Lavender: "Oh, Clovis; there's no coverup there! There was a terrorist attack there just a few days ago, we closed off the site to keep the investigators safe."
Clovis: "But doesn't it seem awfully convenient that an attack occurred just as an archaeological investigation was warming up?"
Leonardo: "Yeah, that sounds an awful lot like a false flag to me."
Lavender: "What would be convenient is a quick and painless completion of the investigation so that the dam can get built. I want the truth to be uncovered just as much as anyone else does, but I also want to make sure nobody gets killed or hurt in the process. Any other questions?"
Lavender got out of his seat to subtly indicate that this conversation was over. He waddled over to the office door to suggest that it was time for Clovis and Leonardo to leave.
Clovis: "Uhh... no, sir."
Leonardo: "By the looks of it, you want us to leave?"
Lavender: "Yes, exactly. I'm a very busy penguin, and I don't have time for hair-brained conspiracy theories, regardless of who they come from."
Clovis: "Thank you for your time, sir."
Lavender: "My pleasure."
Lavender forcefully slammed the office door behind Clovis and Leonardo as they were escorted out.
"The things I have to deal with..."
"For the millionth time, Agent Roebling, I DON'T CARE if you're an SIA Agent, we can't let you into the quarantine zone!"
Roebling was trying, as he had frequently done so in the past few days, to get access into the cave tunnels, all of which were still closed off following the Purple Republic attack. The SIA agents on guard were getting quite sick of it.
Roebling: "I'm the same rank as you! I just finished a treacherous mission in Snowzerland, what have YOU done recently that qualifies you to be in the exclusion zone, but not me?!"
SIA Agent: "I don't care if you just saved the world, Agent Roebling. You weren't assigned to this area, and as such I can't let you in regardless of your rank or your previous accomplishments."
He hopped away from the cave entrance, defeated as usual. Roebling would have to think of a better entry plan if he and Fisch were to continue their quest for the truth.
Chapter Three: There's Treachery Afoot
"This place really has changed since I was last here... It's time to finish what I started!"
Ben 100022 and his friend Kur Rising had just arrived in Shops Island. More specifically, they had just finished a long trek up to the Mario Mountains, and were close to the Chad Thunderbeak Memorial Dam site. Suspiciously enough, they had managed to sneak past border security and were able to arrive on the island in much the same fashion that Ben had originally done so in 2010; on a raft.
Kur Rising: "Uhh... Ben?"
Kur Rising: "You do realize you're trying to interfere with a high-level investigation, right?"
Ben: "Yes, but how hard could this possibly be? All I've gotta do is sneak into some caves, light a few things on fire, and then leave!"
Kur Rising: "I'm just saying, you're going up against the second most powerful spy agency in Antarctica; you miiiiiight want to rethink your plan."
Ben: "Nonsense! You'd be surprised at the stuff I got away with as president, surely I can swoop in and tidy up some things I could miss. They're not looking for me, after all!"
Ben gestured to his friend as he waddled into an entrance to the mountainous caves. Ben had timed it just right so that he could slip in during a shift rotation. Unluckily for him, however, there was an SIA agent watching far off in the distance, tracking each penguin and puffle who entered and exited the tunnels.
Ben may seem quite smart with his plan to sneak past the guards into the caves, but he wasn't the only one who was both ingenious and ambitious.
Fisch and Roebling had the same plan, and were already deep inside the caves. They were equipped with flashlights, shovels, brushes, and other important archaeological tools. They had one task at hand; find out what was really being hidden deep within the mountains.
Fisch: "These scrawls on the cave walls are like nothing I've ever seen before..."
Roebling: "Can you decipher them?"
Roebling: "And you don't think this is just a plant by the SIA to hide something bigger?"
Fisch: "I'm not sure; we'd have to take some evidence samples and send them to a lab for carbon-dating."
The two curious investigators continued to explore the caves, getting deeper and deeper into their cavernous environment; far past what had previously been mapped by the investigation.
"Hey, Fisch, look at THIS!"
Fisch: "What is it?"
Roebling turned around, holding an ancient relic which looked like a very old viking helmet. It was badly weathered, and shaped unlike anything Fisch had ever seen before.
Roebling: "Do you think this looks like a government plant?"
Fisch: "That is very peculiar. My uncle is a viking; I've traveled all of Antarctica with him and seem ALL the different types of vikings during my travels, but I've NEVER seen something like that!"
Roebling: "That must mean there's a lot more to this story than we thought..."
Fisch: "But I thought Shops Island was uninhabited until just recently?"
Roebling: "So did I... maybe we've been lied to, though."
Fisch: "Well, what would anyone have to gain from that?"
- KNOCK KNOCK
"Who is it?!"
"It's me, Mister President. It's time for your daily intelligence briefing. Is now a good time?"
"Oh, yes... come in. I was just caught up in something."
Baron von Broseef waddled into the Triangle Office with a bunch of government documents, all of which had [CLASSIFIED] stamped on them. Lavender got up and moved to a couch opposite Broseef, as the general laid the intelligence documents out on the coffee table in front of him.
Lavender: "Where's LMGT? Why isn't he delivering my briefing?"
Lavender: "I see. I've been meaning to do a state visit there for a while now, I'm sure Chad would have great fun from that."
Broseef: "It'd sure annoy the scrub club."
Lavender: "Anyway, what's new, Baron?"
Baron von Broseef opened up the biggest file folder of his assortment and took out some grainy photographs, and handed them to Lavender to inspect personally.
Lavender: "Is that Ben? And Fisch Hochstadt?"
Broseef: "Yes, it is. We're not sure as to why exactly they're here, but the SIA is investigating as we speak."
Lavender: "That's troubling. Who's the puffle? And who's the other penguin accompanying Ben?"
Broseef: "That's 'Roebling', he belongs to former president Bro. And the other penguin is supposedly 'Kur Rising', a petty vandal from the Club Penguin Weekee and general troublemaker. I have no idea why he'd be associating with Ben, though..."
Lavender: "Anything else pertinent to report?"
Broseef: "No, sir. Only that we're currently trying to locate the whereabouts of these trespassers."
Lavender: "Tell the field agents to ease up for the time being. If we mishandle Fisch, I'll have half of the Ninja Archipelago wanting to roast my head on a spit. We must tread carefully."
Broseef: "Yes, sir. I'll let you get back to your business."
Lavender: "Thank you, Baron."
Baron von Broseef exited the Triangle Office, taking most of the files with him - except for the pictures that he'd given Lavender, as the president was still holding on to them.
Lavender got up off the couch only to notice that a small duckling had squeezed its way under the door, and was pecking its way around the president's office. Lavender got up and approached the little bird with disdain.
And what do we do with pests, you may ask?
Lavender loomed atop the helpless duckling, bent down, and swooped it up off the floor.
He then threw the duck out of the Triangle Office's window. Luckily, the duckling survived the impact and hopped away unharmed.
After having disposed of the little pest at hand, Lavender left the office to attend to the "bigger pests" and other pressing issues.
Fisch, Roebling, and a few other investigators huddled themselves inside Fisch's tent, where Roebling was pulling a wide variety of cave artifacts from his hammerspace. The relics included old viking-like helmets, an old pickaxe with a rotten handle, some utensils carved out of wood, and multiple small hand-made weapons. General consensus among those investigation the caves was that these certainly weren't government plants, but that there was a coverup underway.
Roebling: "Well, that's everything. Seems to be about 100 pounds of random relics Fisch and I were able to dig up."
Fisch: "The artifacts are quite curious, indeed. They remind me of something that I'd have found in the old Viking Empire. Unfortunately, the trail runs cold if we can't find any legible information after we finish collecting this evidence."
Investigator #1: "So you're saying that you haven't found any evidence as to who actually left these things here?"
Roebling: "No, we haven't. We'll have to continue the investigation from outside of Shops Island if we can't find anymore identifying data, or if Lavender's government keeps trying to crack down on this."
- WOOSH WOOSH WOOSH WOOSH WOOSH
Fisch: "Speaking of which..."
Fisch and Roebling stepped outside of the tent to see what was causing such a large racket. They looked towards the entrance to the caves and saw three military helicopters coming in for landing. Multiple SIA Special Forces troops had already arrived on-scene, and were stationed at the entrance to the cave. Four vans pulled up to site moments later, full of journalists and reporters, all of whom quickly disembarked from the vans and hurried over to the cave entrance.
The helicopters kicked up lots of dust as they made their final descent; Fisch and Roebling had to cover their eyes so that they wouldn't get covered in dust. When the dust settled, both of the intrepid archaeologists were less than thrilled by who they saw.
Roebling: "Wait, what's Lavender doing here?!"
Fisch: "Beats me. I guess he wants to take matters into his own flippers. This project seems to mean a lot to him, after all."
Roebling: "Something fishy is going on..."
Fisch: "Yeah, and for once it's NOT my outfit!"
Lavender, having just arrived at the foot of the caves via helicopter, quickly disembarked from his helicopter and wasted no time waddling towards the cave entrance. Behind him followed Mister Albert, who shielded the president from the eager group of reporters. Lavender slipped into the caves and disappeared into the darkness, while Albert stayed outside to keep the press at bay.
- "Mister Striker, what is the president doing here??!!"
- "Why does this project hold-up mean so much to president Lavender?"
- "Doesn't our commander in-chief have anything better to do than go treasure hunting??!!?"
Albert: "The president is here to see that this keystone infrastructure project is completed on schedule. He will not be taking questions, and he wishes to be left alone while he checks out things for himself."
Mister Albert continued to entertain the reporters' questions without actually answering them, giving Lavender valuable time to "eliminate" the "pests" he had previously referred to.
Lavender waddled down the dark, decrepit caves underneath the Mario Mountains, seeking to deal once and for all with the former Shopper president. After almost half an hour of searching every nook and cranny, Lavender caught Ben red-flippered, deleting and burning old artifacts.
"Now, Ben, I admire your initiative to do the dirty work that I can't as a legitimate president, but I can't have you doing it so sloppily!"
Ben was caught completely off-guard by Lavender, who had just introduced himself with a snide and condescending remark.
Ben: "Oh... It's you."
Lavender: "Yes. It's me. Now, I know you'd hate to be exposed as the genocidal maniac that you are, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave my country."
Ben: "Why would I do that? So that you can frame me for killing all these tribes?"
Lavender paused briefly and turned away from Ben to think for a moment.
You've probably been asking yourself why I'm so invested in some old, run-down artifacts in the hidden depths of Shopper back country. Well, I'll tell you why.
Contrary to popular belief, Ben was not the first person to call Shops Island home. In 2010, when he arrived, the island was already inhabited by a small tribe called the Skar penguins; They were a subset of the Vikings that inhabited the Seal Islands.
At first, Ben and his merry group of friends seemed harmless to the Skar people. "Why, there's only a handful of them. How much trouble could they possibly be?"Well, now you see just how much trouble he's been.
Lavender: "No, Ben, I'm not going to frame you."
Ben: "Then why do you care what I do?"
Lavender: "Because you're sloppy. You're stupid. Your overconfidence will lead to this story being blown wide open. And don't forget: I just don't like you. I'm here to make any evidence of this ever happening disappear. I suggest you also disappear voluntarily, before I have to take matters into my own flippers."
Ben: "Are you threatening me, Lavender?"
Lavender: "Yes, I am. Now I suggest you and your ilk scurry off before I deal with these matters myself."
Lavender started to waddle back out of the cave, leaving Ben to contemplate his next moves and to decide whether or not he'd actually honor the president's requests.
"You have 24 hours. Make the right decision, Ben!"
Minutes later, Lavender exited the caves, flanked by Mister Albert and his security detail. Lavender stopped at the cave entrance and whispered something to his Chief of Staff:
- "Time to set the bait. Let's pack this up and mobilize."
Mister Albert motioned to Lavender's security detail and the rest of the SIA agents guarding the tunnel entrance. The swath of personnel, followed closely by many curious journalists, vacated the area and packed into buses to travel into nearby Bro Town, where Lavender's aides leaked to the press that he'd be hosting a press conference.
As Lavender's security detail, the other SIA agents and the press left the dam site, it was clear to Fisch, Roebling and the other curious archaeologists that something fishy was going on. But, the cave entrance was also completely unguarded - Roebling saw an opportunity.
Roebling: "C'mon, guys! Now is our chance to go in as a team and see what the government is REALLY trying to hide!"
Fisch: "Uhh... no."
Roebling: "What do you mean 'no'?"
Fisch: "It's clearly a trap, Roebling. I've been around long enough to know that Lavender wouldn't just pull all those guards out for no reason."
Roebling: "Yeah, it's probably a trap. But if we don't act now, then when can we?"
Roebling: "I don't care what's trying to get covered up, I'm going in there NOW to figure out what's up! Who's with me??"
The tent fell silent. All the archaeologists on site knew that going into the caves would likely be falling right into some sinister trap. Nobody seemed willing to put everything on the line for something so petty.
Fisch: "Roebling, I don't know what's so important about some silly artifacts to you, even if they are quite interesting and out of the ordinary."
Roebling: "It's not about the artifacts. It's about knowing the truth! I'm just a puffle. I've spent most of my life tied up in my owner's house, yearning to see what life off a leash is like. Sure it might be dangerous to go spelunking inside those caves, but by golly it'll be interesting!"
Again, the tent was silent. Roebling, frustrated with his curmudgeon friends, hopped out of the tent and made his way towards the unguarded caves.
Lavender was sitting in his presidential limo en-route to Bro Town to deliver a so-called press conference. He had successfully gotten the entire press corps away from the dam site, and as such had averted a potential PR crisis. As per the president's orders, his motorcade was traveling faster than usual and had greatly outpaced the press vans which were trailing in the distance. Out of nowhere, the president gestured towards one of his security guards who was riding alongside the president and Mister Albert.
"Hey, you there!"
Agent: "Yes, sir?"
Lavender: "Please give me your gun."
Agent: "I'm sorry Mr. President, I'm afraid I'm not author-"
Albert: "Give him the gun. We don't need any trouble."
Agent: "Uh... yes, sir."
The SIA agent handed Lavender his handgun. It was a peculiar request, but he had no choice but to obey. Lavender took the handgun, cocked it, and then rolled down his window. He poked his head out of the window and fired at the bulletproof limousine door.
- BANG BANG BANG
The driver of the limousine was caught completely off-guard, and rolled down his window to the back seat to see what had just happened.
Driver: "Mr. President, did you just-"
Albert: "The secure package just got attacked, you fool! Take evasive action, NOW!"
The president's motorcade, reacting to this surprise "attack", quickly took evasive action and vacated the highway they were traveling on to rush the president to "safety"
All I had to do was whisper some words to Striker and waddle confidently. Now I have all those pesky journalists off my back. Faking an attack on my motorcade buys me valuable time.
"Penguin Rights" is currently a hot topic across Antarctica. If these pesky explorers uncover something my predecessor did, they'll have my head on a pike before I know what's going on. We can't let that happen, now can we?
It's time to finish this ordeal once and for all before it grows wings.
Deep inside the caves of the Mario Mountains, Ben 100022 was still accompanied by Kur Rising, searching frantically and burning any Skar artifacts they could find before archaeologists could get their flippers on them and point out what the Shopper government had actually done all those years ago.
Of course, Ben thought Lavender was just bluffing. What would the president actually be able to do without arising suspicion? Plus, he had been given 24 hours - Plenty of time to do all the required dirty work.
Ben sat atop a perch deep within the cave systems. Over the perch was a precipitous drop down to a rock floor - perhaps an old waterfall had once run there. Nonetheless, there were ancient scrawlings all over the walls around the cliff area; pesky graffiti that had to be wiped. Ben was busy at work chipping at the rock-carved hieroglyphs with a chisel, while Kur Rising was in a nearby tunnel minding his own business.
- CHINK CHING CHINK
"Really, Ben? A chisel? How sloppy."
Ben turned from his work to see none other than Lavender. He had diverted his motorcade so that he could come back to the caves and settle matters with Ben, once and for all.
Ben: "Oh, it's you again. What do you want? An apology for this mess?"
Lavender: "No. It's too late for that."
Lavender reached into his hammerspace and pulled out a knicicle.
Ben got up from the corner he was chiseling away at and started backing away from Lavender.
"What are you doing, man? Have you gone mad?!"
Lavender: "Something I should have done a looong time ago."
Ben kept waddling backwards, trying to get away from the seemingly-crazy Lavender. The perch was quite narrow and Ben was being pushed in the wrong direction - towards the perilous drop.
"I don't know what happened to your head, dude, but you need to cut this out right now!"
Lavender: "HAHAHAHA!.... no."
Ben had been pushed back to the edge of the rock perch; his back turned towards the live edge and his entire consciousness focused on his crazy foe in front of him. Lavender stopped his chase now that Ben was cornered.
Ben: "What are you gonna do, stab me? You're the only person here. Everyone will know YOU did it!"
Lavender took his knicicle and made a lunging motion towards Ben's gut. He didn't actually strike Ben, but the former president was shocked nonetheless, flinched, and stumbled backwards over the edge out of primal fear. Big mistake.
Chapter Four: On the Lam
After pushing Ben to his death, Lavender withdrew his knicicle and looked into the cavernous abyss, pondering:
All Ben had to do was sit back and rest easy, trusting me to get this issue sorted out. Alas, he chose to throw a wrench in the works, so I naturally had to put a wrench in his.
I see you there - taken aback, slack-jawed, eyes and mouth agape in horror and confusion, thinking "how could he do such a thing??". It's okay, I don't expect you to understand.
You are just another brick in the wall, another cog of society's machine. You have other issues to worry about: Getting good grades in that hard class of yours, figuring out which car you want, who you want to be friends with and what you want to do with your life.
Your life is filled with so much uncertainty and indecision that you don't want me, you NEED me. You may think that you want a 'fair', 'democratic' ruler who looks out for "the good of all", but deep down what you need a cold-hearted authoritarian to rule you like a king.
True leaders cannot let pesky things such as "ethics" and "morals" divert us from the goal at hand - I have a job to do as President and I cannot let anybody stand in my way.
Roebling had managed to slip into the caves without much issue, considering the SIA guards on-site had been diverted due to Lavender's antics. The curious brown puffle perused the caverns trying to find any more evidence he could preserve. Little did he know, everything was about to change.
As Roebling hopped through the caves, he made his way through a large atrium-like opening deep within the mountain. It was eerily quiet, until he heard something off in the distance:
"What are you gonna do... ...here. Everyone will know YOU did it!"
Roebling stopped dead in his tracks as he heard the massive "thud" behind him, not even 100 feet away. He turned around to see a carcass now sitting on the cave floor, seemingly coming out of nowhere. He hopped over to the body to see what had happened.
"Kermit on a bike! Is that former president Ben 100022?"
He pulled out his icePhone to look up what the former president looked up, as his memory was fuzzy.
"Drats, no service!"
Duh. He's in a cave.
Roebling sat in stunned horror at the scene, before trying to resuscitate Ben and rationalize what had just happen. His noble efforts, however, were soon disturbed:
"HEY! YOU THERE! BACK AWAY AND PUT YOUR FLIPPERS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!"
Roebling: "But I don't-"
Before he could respond to the illogical order, Roebling and Ben's carcass were encircled by a group of SIA operatives who had just arrived on the scene; all part of the trap sprung by Lavender. Due to there being no evidence of anyone else causing Ben's death, Roebling was swiftly arrested as the prime suspect.
Roebling: "Wait! You can't do this! You have no evidence against me! This is all circumstantial! This-"
An SIA officer struck Roebling with his baton, knocking the poor puffle out cold. The unconscious puffle, and the former president's body were both taken out of the caves, to be dealt with elsewhere.
After having spent a day in Bro Town, Lavender was swarmed by a media frenzy upon his return to Shops City. News had just broken about ex-President Ben's untimely death. Lavender would have to step carefully so as not to arouse suspicion.
As the president arrived to his residence in the heart of the city, his entourage was swamped by frantic reporters, trying to get the "inside scoop" on what had happened.
- "MISTER PRESIDENT! What do you have to say about Ben's death??!?!?"
- "Is it true that you were there when he died?!?!?"
- "What knowledge do you have of the suspects currently being detained??"
Lavender simply ignored the queries as he was whisked inside his residence. He had bigger matters to attend to, and as far as his administration was concerned, the death of an ex-president was but a blip on the radar.
There were bigger fish to fry; Lavender would be meeting later that day with President Brant of Acadia, who had come to Shops Island on a diplomatic mission, hoping to cool recent tensions between the two countries.
"Ugghhh... where am I? Why am I in shackles? What is this place???"
Stunned and confused, Roebling had just woken up from a long and deep sleep. He only vaguely remembered what had happened before being knocked unconscious; A loud thud, a familiar-looking corpse, being surrounded, and getting knocked out. Roebling knew deep down that something had gone horribly wrong, that he hadn't actually committed any crimes, but anything was blurry. His senses were dulled by an all-white jail cell with bright LED lights, and he always felt a sickening rocking motion.
After he had come to his senses, Roebling got up and shouted at the prisoner in the cell across his, looking for answers:
Roebling: "Hey! You there! What is this place, and where is it?"
Prisoner: "This is Fort Celatum, dude. I don't know what a little Puffle like you did to get here, but you're probably doomed."
Roebling: "Oh. Uhh... well then what did you do to get here?"
"Hey, you just got here too?"
Roebling was caught off-guard by someone else interjecting into the conversation. He peeked out between the bars of his jail cell and looked to his left; the prisoner in the adjacent cell was trying to get his attention.
Roebling: "Yeah... I just got here today I think. How long have you been here?"
Other Prisoner: "I just got here today, too. Which is weird; I heard they don't bring people in in pairs all that often."
Roebling: "Interesting... what's your name? I'm Roebling!"
Other Prisoner:" The name's Kur. Kur Rising. I'm a friend of president Ben and I was.. uhh... captured while doing some exploring... Yeah, that'll do."
Roebling: "Well, umm... that's quite odd."
Roebling turned away and pondered for a minute. What a coincidence; he had just been framed for the murder of Ben 100022, and now this other prisoner was claiming to be a close friend of his. Roebling wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on, because he was growing more suspicious by the minute.
Lavender sat at his desk in the Triangle Office, waiting impatiently for his "esteemed guest" Brant to arrive. Suddenly, Lavender's brooding was interrupted by an aide knocking on the door.
- *KNOCK KNOCK*
"Mr. President, Monsieur Esser has just arrived."
"Send him in."
The aide opened the door to the Triangle Office, and ushered Brant into Lavender's abode.
Brant: "Mister President! It's a pleasure-"
Lavender: "You're late."
Brant: "I'm sorry, I got-"
Lavender: "Sit down. We have a lot to discuss."
Brant: "Geez... someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."
The Acadian president grabbed a chair and moved it, sitting himself beside Lavender's desk.
Brant: "So... I heard about Ben 100022's untimely passing..."
Brant: "I'm sorry to hear about that. I'm sure it must be hard for your country."
Lavender: "Spare me the pleasantries, Brant; I know you're not actually sorry and I wouldn't care if you were - Now, let's get down to business:"
Brant: "You've gotta be kidding me."
Lavender: "No, I'm completely serious."
Brant: "You can't honestly expect me to just let that cretin get away with mocking me and my country! That's literally all he and Achadia stand for! It's absolute madness!"
Lavender: "I don't care what you and your fragile ego have to say about him or his shenanigans. He has a legitimate claim to his land, and your perverse obsession with defeating a midget hockey player will only serve to isolate you and your pathetic city-state from the rest of Antarctica."
Brant: "You're bluffing, Lavender. You may have a powerful military, but I have the Western Union and the moral high-ground behind me."
Lavender: "I have no interest in starting a war for frivolous reasons, but I've done it before and I'll do it again if I feel the need. But, if you agree to tone down your rhetoric against Achadia and keep your navy at bay, Shops Island and the Axle Powers will have no reason to get involved. Does that sound reasonable?"
Brant: "I mean, I guess... but,-"
Lavender: "Excellent. Now, I'd like to discuss the influence of the Penstubal Post on your country and how one of your people tried to take me down."
Brant: "Oh boy..."
Lavender: "Don't "Oh boy" me, Brant. I know you ordered a hit on me because you're sick of me standing in the way of your Antarctic domination! That's what it is, isn't it!?"
Brant: "Man, I bet you're real fun at parties..."
It was dinner time at Fort Celatum, and Roebling was on the hunt for answers. His memory had come back, and he remembered the last thing he saw was the corpse of Ben 100022, and then getting knocked out by SIA officers. He decided to sit down with Kur Rising in the mess hall, who claimed to be Ben's "friend", to see what exactly was up. Roebling made his way to Kur's table and tried to fraternize.
Kur Rising: "Oh, hello there... uhh... Robert? Is that it?"
Kur Rising: "Right. What do you want?"
Roebling: "What do you know about Ben 100022? I was there in the caves when he died."
Kur Rising: "That's quite the tall tale to be spinning, puffle. If you were there, tell me how exactly he died."
Roebling: "There was some altercation atop a cliff and Ben was sent over the edge. He died on impact at the bottom, where I just happened to be. Then I got arrested as the prime suspect."
Kur Rising: "Do you know who did it?"
Roebling: "No... I heard another voice other than Ben's atop the cliff, arguing and bickering back-and-forth before he died. The voice sounds so familiar, but I just can't figure out where I remember it from..."
Kur Rising: "Weird."
Roebling: "Something tells me I'm being silenced and framed for something I didn't do because someone wants to cover up the truth! I'm just a curious investigator - I'm not a criminal! I think there's something fishy about your friend dying and I think you know something I don't... Why was he even there in the first place?"
Kur Rising sighed and put his fork down onto his dinner tray. He stood up with a resigned look on his face and started waddling away.
Roebling: "Wait! Listen to me! Where are you going??"
Kur Rising: "I'm going back to my cell, puffle. Leave me alone."
As night fell over Shops Island, the country's elite congregated in the capital as Lavender hosted an extravagant state dinner for Brant Esser and the Acadian delegation to Shops Island, as was tradition for high-profile visits of foreign dignitaries. Lavender and his wife Violet stood at the entrance to the banquet hall, personally greeting each of the esteemed guests that were invited to the state dinner. Some of the last guests to arrive were President Brant and his wife.
Lavender leaned in and shook Brant's flipper, exchanging pleasantries in spite of the terse conversation that had occurred earlier that day in the Triangle Office.
"Hope you enjoy your meal, monsieur president."
"Thank you, mister president."
Lavender then turned to Brant's wife and gave her two kisses on the cheek in a very welcoming gesture.
Lavender: "Salut mademoiselle! Have a wonderful evening, and I hope you enjoy your stay in Shops City."
Jayne Esser: "Merci!"
Brant, not one to be shown up in front of the cameras, tried to go in for the kiss with Violet. She, however, co-opted his gesture with a side-hug and a firm handshake.
Violet: "Good to see you, Brant. Have a nice evening!"
Brant was embarrassed, but tried to shrug it off professionally: "Yeah, uhh... thanks."
As Lavender was about to go inside to take his seat at the dinner table, he was pulled aside by Mister Albert.
Lavender: "What's the problem, Albert? I pay you do my dirty work, not interrupt my social events!"
Albert: "I just got word from the Bureau of Infrastructure that they'll be closing the investigation at the Chad Thunderbeak dam tonight with no significant findings. Also got word that formal charges against suspects A and B will be filed in the morning."
Lavender: "Excellent - good work, Albert. I'll be sure to fit those into my budget speech tonight."
To be continued!