~ Summary ~
~ Parts ~
~ Part 1 ~
The snow leopard sighed quietly to herself as she sat down in front of her computer, a mug of black coffee in hand. Her morning had not been overly stressful, which was good, but it was only one o'clock in the afternoon; in her opinion, this was plenty of time for things to go wrong...
If one was able to read her current thoughts, they might simply write her off as a pessimist, but in all reality, her concerns were not unfounded. It had been about two months since the Subzero Glacier Egg Base had been erected within one of the towering ice plateaus of the Frozen Plateau Zone; at the demand of Dr. Eggman, mining operations were set up inside of the nearby Shiverstone Caves, under his belief that a powerful artifact lay hidden deep within the treacherous gelid maze. An entire month had passed, with Ivory's Egg Soldiers searching fruitlessly for the rumored treasure, and it had been a month's worth of disappointment and near-fatal accidents. The head of the medical bay had come complaining to her more than once, more than twice, even more than three times over how dangerous the caves were...
That particular exchange had been three days ago, and little had changed since then; the Shiverstone Caves were just as treacherous as ever, and Eggman still would not allow Ivory to pull her men and women out. Weary fingers ran through pale hair as the snow leopard stared into her barely-touched mug of coffee, the dark substance likely having gone lukewarm by now. Sighing, she raised the beverage to her lips, just in time for there to be a blip on the console next to the door.
"What is it now...?" she groaned, leaning back and looking over her shoulder, before getting up and walking over to the console. A few keystrokes revealed the face on the other side of the door; a male lynx with Cybernetic ears.
"Very sorry to disturb you, Ivory," he said in his relatively thick Russian accent. "But, uhh... ve haff big problem."
"Did someone else get hurt in the caves?" she asked, frowning; while she most certainly did care about the well-being of her soldiers, mining-related injuries were so common that she couldn't bring herself to be shocked over them anymore. However, he shook his head.
"No, uh... bigger problem. Problem vis tusks, and bad temper..."
Ivory tilted her head to the side, eyes narrowed. She had a bad feeling about what Gerasim was going to say...
"You don't mean..."
The lynx nodded once, looking rather grim.
"Da. Icebreakers. Right outside of icy caves," he said. "Don't know vye zey're here, but... zey're here."
Ivory groaned and paced around now, pinching the bridge of her snout a bit.
"We'll never be able to go near the caves with those things stomping around," she muttered, shaking her head. "They'd tear us to shreds...!"
Gerasim shrugged, his arms crossed.
"Vell, now we haff excuse to not piddle around in caves, da?" he asked. "No more t'rowing lives avay in ice maze."
"As nice as that would be, Lord Eggman has not given us permission to cease operations inside of the caves," Ivory frowned, looking back towards the console screen. "Not as long as there's still resources in there..."
This prompted an irritated huff from the lynx.
"Vat is point?? Ve keep being forced deeper into icy maze; how long until somevun die?? How many resources does Lord Eggman need, anyvay??"
Gerasim groaned, rubbing at his forehead.
"Ugh... I need hot, strong coffee..."
At that, the door opened up, with Ivory standing directly behind it.
"I'm coming with you," she said. "Mine's gone cold by now."
~ Part 2 ~
A few Egg Soldiers were sitting directly outside the base, hot thermos' in hand as they watched the Icebreaker Tizheruks congregating near the entrance of the Shiverstone Caves. The herd was a good distance away from the base, but nobody dared to stray away from the relative safety of the building; Tizheruks were known for being territorial to the extreme, after all.
"What a way t'cancel work, eh?" a caribou chuckled, taking a drink from her thermos. "An' I thought Icebreakers only bothered th'blokes over at Tundra's base."
"Why are they this far inland, though?" mused an ermine. "Aren't they more of a coastal species?"
An arctic fox with a cast over his right leg just grumbled.
"Real question is, why can't we just get Badniks to do all the work for us in that damn cave?!" he barked, slamming a fist onto his broken leg and instantly regretting it, letting out a pained hiss. "At least they're replaceable; we're not!"
He huffed and took a drink from his thermos.
"I'm glad those Icebreakers are here; maybe we'll finally get a permanent break from that damn cave, and be able to do work that won't kill us..."
"As if workin' for Lord Eggman ain't already a life-threatenin' prospect," the caribou hummed, causing the fox to sigh a bit.
"You know what I mean, Ingvild."
The front doors of the base opened up, and Ivory and Gerasim stepped out, also carrying thermos'. Seeing their boss show up caused the Egg Soldiers outside to take notice and give a brief, knowing bow; Ivory was well-respected among her regiment, but at the same time was amiable enough to never demand respect.
"So... they're not going to move anytime soon, are they?" Ivory asked, leaning against the wall. The caribou, Ingvild, shook her head.
"Doesn't look like it, Boss," she said. "Not sure why, though; there ain't much for them ta eat 'round 'ere."
"Well, that's a problem," Ivory sighed, brushing a bit of hair from her face. "We weren't given the go-ahead to stop mining the cave..."
The fox groaned, dragging his hand down his face.
"He still wants us in there?! Damn it, I'm sick of risking my neck every day in that deathtrap!" he barked, pointing towards the caves; the glacial plateau that the cave entrance had been carved into countless years ago loomed over the tundra.
"I already broke my leg in there; what's next, my spine?!"
This prompted a snort from Gerasim, arms crossed as he frowned at the fox.
"Speaking uff leg, vye are you valking around on it, Artyom? Is still broken, da?" he chided, while Artyom just waved his hand dismissively.
"You worry way too much, Ger! I brought my crutch with me!"
He pointed to the crutch that was laying on the ground next to him, and Gerasim just rolled his eyes.
"Bah, fine," he huffed, looking out towards the Shiverstone Caves now. The Icebreaker herd still hadn't left, and were rooting around in the icy soil for food.
"Vot makes apex predators such as zese vant to come here? Zere iz nothing for zem," he muttered, shaking his head. "No food, no vater..."
"Something must've scared them into coming up here," the ermine piped up, but Gerasim merely laughed.
"Comrade, nozing scares an Icebreaker," he said, shaking his head. "Zey do not even fear our technology. You t'row Badnik at vun, zey vill just smash it. You point laser rifle at vun, zey charge and gore you. Zey are fearless."
"Then why would they travel up here if there's nothing for them to eat or drink?" the ermine asked now, quirking an eyebrow. For this, Gerasim didn't have a good answer, and he merely huffed.
"I do not know, Leifur; I am doctor, not biologist."
At this, Ingvild stood up and stretched.
"Well," she said, scratching idly behind one ear with her free hand. "We ain't gonna be accomplishin' much just sittin' 'ere, eh? Guess we gotta find some way ta scare those things off."
Ivory was already making her way back into the building, however.
"We're not going near those things," she said. "I'm going to talk to Lord Eggman and see if he'll be willing to compromise... either that, or Tundra might know how to deal with this problem."
She stopped and turned, her stark amber eyes trained on the others.
"No one is to leave the base or attempt to engage those Tizheruks until this is dealt with, understand? I'm not risking anyone dying."
The soldiers nodded, a chorus of assent coming from them. Ivory smiled at this.
"Good. Well, uhh... I guess find other work to do for now, then."
With that, she stepped into the base, making her way back to her quarters. Gerasim sighed softly, before following her inside.
~ Part 3 ~
"Can't you convince Lord Eggman to let us cancel operations in caves?" Gerasim asked, arms crossed as his tail flicked slightly in irritation. Ivory didn't even turn around to face him as she unlocked her room, although she did let the fellow feline step inside with her.
"That'd be like convincing this continent to melt all its snow and become as warm as Soumerca," she said, sounding rather drained. "Lord Eggman's word is final; if he wants us to keep mining the Shiverstone Caves, we keep mining the Shiverstone Caves. I'm just hoping he'll at least listen to reason and not force us to mine regardless of the Tizheruk invasion..."
Ivory sat down in front of her computer, fingers hovering tentatively over the keyboard. The big boss made her nervous, and she was almost considering contacting Tundra instead; at least he was more empathetic than the doctor, despite his gruffness. Plus, he had dealt with Tizheruks before... surely he'd have some solution?
"...well, might as well get it over with..."
Exhaling heavily, her fingers danced swiftly over the keyboard, and a few seconds later, the screen changed to direct feed of Eggman himself. The doctor frowned, and the snow leopard could've sworn she felt his eyes piercing her through his spectacles.
"Ivory," he said curtly. "I trust you have an important reason for interrupting me?"
"I... y-yes, sir," she nodded; damned stutter, she didn't want to do that. "There's a... big problem at the Shiverstone Caves, sir."
"Really," Dr. Eggman huffed, leaning back in his seat somewhat. "Big enough that you felt the need to bother me?"
Oh, this was already going nowhere fast. Swallowing thickly, Ivory nodded again, her hands folded primly in her lap.
"Yes sir," she said. "Icebreaker Tizheruks. An entire herd of them parked in front of the caves; there's no way any of us can get near there, now..."
Dr. Eggman frowned and rubbed idly at his chin now, considering the leopard's words.
"Hmm... I've heard Tundra complain about those before," he said. "Apparently he's lost five of his men to one near his base."
Ivory couldn't help but grimace slightly at that, not wanting to think of just how gruesome the discovery must've been; Icebreakers were infamous for their savagery.
"Yes, sir; you can understand why I don't wish to subject any of my soldiers to that," she said, bowing her head slightly. The doctor snorted a bit.
"And I suppose you want me to do something about this?" he asked gruffly, fingers drumming idly against the armrest of his chair. Ivory's eyes widened, and she shook her head a bit more frantically than she intended.
"N-No, sir, not at all! I'm... merely letting you know the situation, and why we won't be able to resume mining operations right away," she said, bowing her head slightly again. With a sigh, Dr. Eggman sat up straight again.
"Right. Three days, then, Ivory. I'm giving you three days to fix this problem," he said, his spectacled gaze fixed onto her own. Ivory blinked.
"And... what if the problem can't be fixed in three days, sir...?"
A smirk crossed the doctor's lips.
"Well, you better hope that isn't the case, then."
With that, the feed was cut; he was no longer interested in the discussion. Ivory sighed, dragging a hand down her face as her shoulders slumped.
"Three days... I don't think that's going to be enough time," she mumbled. Gerasim frowned.
"So... call Tundra? He's dealt vith these before, da?"
"Well, yes, but I don't know if he'll have a solution to drive them away before the three days are up," she said, again returning to the keyboard to call up the Artika Egg Boss. A few seconds later, the screen lit up once more with direct video feed, this time revealing a brawny walrus at the other end of the line.
"What? Who's-... oh, Ivory, it's you," he huffed, his brusque expression softening slightly. "You don't normally call me; something wrong?"
"Yes, in fact, there is" she said, frowning. "A big problem; one you're probably familiar with..."
"Yes? Go on...?" Tundra quirked an eyebrow at the leopard, prompting her to sigh quietly.
"...Icebreaker Tizheruks, Tundra. Hanging out right in front of the Shiverstone Caves."
The walrus couldn't help but grimace; he was definitely familiar with that.
"That's an incredibly big problem," he muttered, shaking his head.