The sloshing of dark, muddy leather boots splashed into the water. Underneath the red and orange ravine, GUN soldiers cautiously traversed through the shadows; their weapons drawn ready for any surprises. Sweat trickled down their faces from the humid, sticky air.
At the front of the group, the famous red and black spined hedgehog held a small device; a holographic map with a yellow dot guiding them where to go. The small ping was the only noise heard during the long and tiring hours of complete silence. The excruciating summer heat on their long sleeve, heavy uniforms made their mission drag on forever.
Occasionally, they would be surprised by finding different kinds of wildlife that roamed about. From playful squirrels, to a silent encounter with a deadly mountain lion that followed them for a while.
After hours of trekking and fighting against the shallow river flow, the squadron approached a fork in the open tunnels. One continuing the rapid river and the other, a dry clay path. The dot guided them to turn away from the water.
Shadow was unsure because according to the plan, this murky river was supposed to be their secret passage towards the Egg Base. But the impatient hedgehog brushed the thought aside and took the other path as a shortcut. As he stepped out of the water. he motioned the exhausted soldiers to follow him, his red eyes still surveying the map.
The chalky path had patches of grass scattered in between cracks, and the slope of the walls were much steeper than on the water. As they followed the trail, the beeping from the yellow dot gradually became louder. An informative, deep voice uttered out from the hedgehog's mouth, breaking the silence, "We're getting close to the—"
The entire group jumped as a huge chunk of the cliff just ahead of them exploded into millions of pieces and slid down, now blocking their path.
"The hell was that," one soldier blurted nearby, nervously holding up his shield like the others.
BOOM! Another chunk of rock exploded, this time closer to them.
"It's a trap!" a gruff voice yelled out.
A domino effect of deafening explosions entrapped them on both sides. Some covered their ears and some fell under their feet from the sudden shaking. Clusters of colored stained rocks clashed down onto their heavy metal shields.
"Go go go!" They all ran back in a heaping mess, hoping to outrun the avalanche. Shadow was able to quickly run past everyone and lead the group back into the water. Small chunks of clay and rock rained down from the sky and hit their helmets.
One of the soldiers in the back covered her nose and mouth with a yellow bandana to protect her from the dust. Another nearby explosion went off and rocks flew towards a distracted Shadow.
The young female gasped and sprinted as fast as her legs could carry her. Everyone around her was shocked to see how fast she was running. She was one of the soldiers in the back, and had just maneuvered around her other teammates through the mud. She pushed Shadow out of the way just before the rocks could crush him. Seconds later the other soldiers were trapped in piles of rubble, bringing the whole group to a sudden halt. The avalanches had blocked all of their path to escape.
"No!" Shadow and a soldier nearby frantically pushed one rock from the pile that had encased his rescuer. After a few minutes of digging and pulling they were able to free the trapped soldier's head and arms. Her shield and armor was the only thing that prevented the rocks from suffocating her and crushing bones. Shadow was relieved to see that she was still alive. Barely.
"Gail!" The hedgehog shouted, but then lowered his voice, "Why did you do that?"
The girl's voice trembled, "They were, going to crush you… Stop." Her military goggles had cracked and fallen off of her face, exposing her frightened brown eyes. Parts of her fair face burned red and her braid was trapped in between two rocks.
Other soldiers were either busy protecting the group with their shields for more falling rocks or helping others caught in the rubble.
"Don't worry, we're going to get you out." Shadow reassured her as both men grabbed her arms.
She winced, "I can't move…" The helping soldier called out to their medic, who finished checking one person and then came running across the water.
He examined her face and brought out his kit, "Looks like first-degree burns. Broken bones are likely. We need to remove more rocks." The two began to hastily pull out more boulders as the medic wiped her muddy face and put cool, wet bandages on her right cheek, forehead and chin.
"Can you feel your legs?"
She tried to move her legs slightly. "Yes I can." Another medic was called over to her as a piercing siren suddenly echoed through the canyon. Shadow threw a small boulder to the side, "Now what?"
"Agent Shadow, the water!" a soldier pointed to the fallen rocks just a few feet away. It had stopped the river flow and the water was starting to rise gradually. At the same time, Motobugs leaped from the top of the cliffs, followed by a wave of Buzz Bombers shooting them from their stingers. Egg Pawns stood at the ridge and fired their arm cannons.
The infantrymen frantically formed two curved lines, the front holding up their shields while the second line stood readily with their Motobugs landed into the water and began to fire away.
The sudden battle of guns vs steel caused some soldiers to fall wounded as did robots. Badnick parts crashed onto the ground around them and onto their shields. Both sides were struggling to survive.
The comrade pushed another boulder and looked up, "Shadow, they need you out there!" More teammates were shot and struggled to get back up. The medics was called once again and once they were done, left them to help the others. Buzz Bombers distracted them from sky as Motobug began to surround the squadron, bringing them closer and closer to each other.
"Tell HQ to get a shuttle. I have an idea." Shadow exclaimed for the whole group to hear.
Their communicator stopped firing and pressed his' hand on his mic, "One is on our way Agent Shadow! Towards the west."
"Shadow we require your assistance!" another soldier called out.
"We can't get them all!"
The hedgehog looked out and back at the Private who was barely clinging onto life. "Hold on Gail. You're going to be okay."
The girl winced, "Okay…"
The hedgehog left and helped his mediocre squad and shot bolts of chaos energy at the circling Motobugs, destroying them instantly. The team aimed for the flanking Egg Pawns while Shadow took care of the Buzz Bombers by skating up the slope and dashing toward them midair.
The communicator listened to his mic and updated everyone, "Shuttle within range of us sir!"
"Then let's get out of here," Shadow went back to the trapped girl. The water now covered her chin and was slowly making its way up to her nose. He took the young soldier's hand and popped a blue Chaos Emerald from inside the emerald tracking device. He lifted the gem up in the air, "Chaos-"
The clean cut gemstone glowed brightly like a beacon, causing many to shield their eyes. Every G.U.N. soldier instantly teleported to the edge of the canyon nearby where they started.
The girl opened her eyes, expecting to be with them, but instead was shocked to see that she was still under the rocks inside the ravine. The water was rising threatening to drown her. Badniks stopped shooting in confusion as to where everyone went. They began to look around aimlessly for any signs of life.
"Shadow?" the frail, quivering voice called out. Her vision became fuzzy and slumped over the rubble and water.
The special forces landed on the hot sands of Mirage Saloon. They all sighed in relief knowing that they were safe, but ultimately felt defeated failing their mission. Shadow eyes widened when he saw that the young soldier didn't make it along with them.
"The shuttle's here!" The communicator pointed ahead to an aircraft that landed in the desert, picking up sand that blew into the air. "Let's go everyone!" Some carried the wounded to the awaiting ship, while only Shadow and another soldier stayed behind.
"Wait but the Commander-" The teammate who helping the trapped recruit noticed her absence.
"Sir we have ten wounded soldiers that seek medical attention immediately-"
Shadow interrupted the medic, "I'm going back. We are not leaving," he pointed at the aircraft, "until everybody is on that ship."
"Agent Shadow," a commanding voice spoke from his' mic, "You must leave. Your squad is wounded. That is an order."
"Not all are accounted for! And it's-"
His' tone became more stern, "-I am sorry. But we can't risk others getting hurt for just one person."
Shadow was about to argue back when he was suddenly forced onto the awaiting shuttle. He desperately tried to get out of his' teammates grasps. Once they had took off, he looked back down at Mirage Canyon one last time.
Not her too.
Edited 4/18 - minor changes and deleted prologue (felt it spoiled the story already, but it will return in a later chapter)