As the young lion sat upon his throne in the vast banquet hall he was beginning to seriously doubt that he was having a good time. He was convinced that he should be having a good time. He had the agencies senior matriarch (which means 'oldest mother') in custody to interrogate as he wished. On the other hand he had already lost fifteen men; seven when they stormed the bunker and another eight when he had tried to frighten the old lady by reminding her about what had happened to her daughter-in-law. Three weeks had gone by and the only thing he had gotten out of her was the secret ingredient for her apple pie! Even that hadn't tasted as spectacular as he had expected. He even had a second pie made with two spoonfuls of the white-powder rather than the one she had suggested but it still wasn't as good as he had heard. To cap it all; his tummy was now beginning to ache.
He closed his eyes to try to take his mind off of the here and now; but things just looked worse. He was very worried about the Agency. They didn't seem to be doing anything. How could he possibly steal one of the agency founders and them not do anything about it. Just then a fox limped in, six teeth were missing and there was blood pouring from his ear: "Sorry Sir, we just tried to feed grapes to the old lady. She knocked two of the guards out and is threatening to stamp on them unless we get her something else; what should we do?" The Lion looked grim. Perhaps the Agency weren't doing anything because they didn't want the old Battle-Tortoise any more than he did! He looked around and smiled. He was going to organize a feast! It would cheer up his men, most of whom had some form of injury, it would take their mind off the old lady in the basement, and maybe some good food would make his tummy feel better.
Winston stood on the guard's table looking at the guard sleeping soundly. The small dog could hear the sound of the party roaring upstairs, and from the smell in the guard's tankard, he had been sent some rather heavy drink himself; which probably explained the heavy sleep. Winston took a deep breath; made sure the keys were held firmly in his teeth and then leapt off the table. As he leapt he knocked the tankard of the table and it landed on the stone floor with a loud bang and shattered into a thousand pieces. The guard woke with a start to see Winston's tail disappear around the side of the door. The guard quickly looked to make sure that the door to the old tortoises cell was still shut and then started to give chase.
The small dog fled down the corridor from the dungeon and up the stairs past the barracks where the rest of the guards slept. The guard chasing him screamed: "stop him" so Winston had to run faster as guards began to pile out of the barracks as quickly as they could. Once on the ground floor Winston headed left towards the two big doors which were slightly open. The door was guarded by two guards both of whom leapt for him. Winston simply jumped at just the right time so that they missed him and banged their heads together. Once inside the two large doors Winston could see the whole banquet hall; he could also hear the guards chasing him. Quick as lightning he leapt onto one of the long tables and started to run down it. As he did, he swerved from side to side both to avoid the grabbing hands and also to make sure he knocked the food, drink and scalding hot gravy over everyone that was sitting down.
The entire room was in an uproar and almost every guard from the barracks was now in the room; it was time for Winston to escape. He ran as fast as he could towards the Lion, leapt off the table onto the king's head and then sprang through the open window and into the courtyard outside the main building. He glanced around. People were now streaming out of the building towards him; behind him were the stairs the led up to the ramparts that surround the courtyard. Winston sprinted up the stairs and started to run around the wall. Again he had to swerve both to avoid guards and to try to knock them off the walls. He was two-thirds of the way around when he heard a crashing noise from the front of the courtyard as the old drawbridge hurtled open; its supporting ropes having been cut. Winston glanced up at the towers that had held the bridge and grinned. Of course, he couldn't see anything, but he was fairly certain that Cham was grinning back at him.
Winston completed his lap of the wall, hurtled back down the stairs, across the drawbridge and started the long run down the dirt road that led from the SHOP stronghold and across the surrounding meadows. Several minutes later his chasers assembled by the drawbridge and looked at how far he had got. "I'll organize a chase-team sir" said a young leopard; "he can out swerve us, but for a long chase across a field, we will win." "Don't be a fool!" growled the young lion, "they want us to send out a team. You will catch the dog just in time to find yourself surrounded by Snappy, an alligator and probably Colossus." "Well!" the lion yelled, "Let's see how well they enjoy having two hundred people to fight! Everyone! After them!!!"
So with that everyone began to chase down the path after Winston. In the lead were the fastest animals; leopards, tigers, lions. Then there was a range of smaller animals trying to keep up with their shorter legs. Finally lumbered along the heavy hitters; rhino's, bears etc. Winston glanced back over his shoulder, he was almost a quarter of a mile ahead of the leading leopard, but the leopard was gaining ground quickly. Winston's tiny legs were moving so fast they could hardly been seen, but the leopards' strides were so much longer that they went almost twice as fast. Fortunately for Winston he was not the only one to notice the gap shrinking. In fact several thousand other pairs of eyes had notice the problem.
"Now!" yelled Brownie from his burrow in the meadow along the edge of the path. Immediately thousands of little rabbits started to appear all over the meadow and they ran towards the dirt path. "Pah!" snorted a rhino towards the rear, "they are sending out messenger rabbits to try to stop us! This will be too easy!" What the rabbits did was even weirder. As soon as Winston was past them they would leap onto the path, dig a small 12 inch deep burrow and then run away back into the meadow. "They are not even staying to fight!" yelled one of the wolves. Suddenly the lead leopard fell over clutching his ankle. "My ankle! Its' broken!" he wailed, "my foot got stuck down a hole!" "STOP" bellowed the Lion. "We are going to have to go slowly and avoid these little burrows! Never assume the Agency is being stupid! They always have a trick up their sleeve!" he continued.
Winston looked ahead; another few hundred feet and he was going to be off of the dirt path and climbing up the gravelly, rocky hill. He was happy that he was half-way back to base; much less happy about the climb. His legs were tired and his breathing was heavy. He looked behind him and saw that the followers were nearly half a mile behind carefully picking their way through the pot-holes. He would have to remember to thank Brownie next time he saw him.
As the small dog was getting towards the top of the hill he looked behind him again; his chasers were closing the gap. Bigger, stronger animals always had an advantage on a straight run. The distance was down to a few hundred yards. Winston put his head down and sprinted a little faster until he reached the top of the hill; which was the signal for Colonel Peck. The large Rhode Island Red nodded to the small dog, threw back his head and crowed: "Rhode Island, Wessex, Orpington Squadrons: Attack! Ancona, Andalausian, Delaware: Prepare for take-off! Dutch, Langshan, Leghorns: Assemble yourselves, you're up next!"
The SHOP agents who were already scrambling to keep their balance as they climbed the hill looked up. A Rhode Island Red cockerel in full voice was fairly frightening. What they saw was even worse. Three hundred chickens were flying out from their perches at the top of the hill. Chickens cannot fly far as their wings are clipped; but they can manage a fairly short circle. Unfortunately for the SHOP agents a short circle was more than enough. When the chickens were over the chasing animals Peck crowed: "bombs away!" and hundreds of eggs came pelting down on the chasing animals. The eggs didn't really, really hurt. But they did sting, they did make the rocks sticky, they did get in your eyes and they did cause enough confusion that animals started to fall back down the hill. Of course the animals below now had to deal with eggs and falling animal which made things even worse.
As Winston got towards the edge of the forest he looked back again; the first of the animals were only just appearing over the edge of the hill. He had a half mile lead again. He took the time to turn around, wave and poke his tongue out at his pursuers. Of course this made them even angrier and they started chasing him even faster; so he quickly turned back around and ducked under the cob-web to run down the forest pathway. A minute later the lion also ducked under the cobweb which was frantically being woven by a dozen little spiders. The lion laughed scornfully. "Too late my little friends," he said, "my whole army will get under your web before you manage to complete it." The lion was right, all of his army did get under the web before the spiders had finished. The dozen tiny little spiders walked to the side of their web to take a rest; and several hundred much larger spiders walked out on to the web to finish it.
Winston was now exhausted and he could hear the pounding of the footsteps of those chasing him. He was half delighted and half angry to run around the corner and see Pheidippides napping and Andromeda munching on a strawberry. He was completely delighted to see the small dark hole just behind them which led under a huge rock. He darted into the burrow, collapsed on the ground and started the process of trying to get his breath back. The two tortoises slowly moved so that their backs were towards the hole and they fired off a few cannon shots; just to make sure the SHOP agents were awake.
The Lion strode to the front of the group and spoke: "so, the great Dr Pheidippides. Glad to meet you at last. I'm particularly glad to meet you having out-witted you!" The small tortoise raised an eyebrow. "Don't try to pretend;" said the Lion, "you thought I would send a small group that you could ambush. Well I have my whole army here! So bring on your turtle and your alligator and we will see who wins!" Dr Pheidippides smiled, "actually Snappy is on vacation at the annual street-fighting championships; they agreed to let him back in if he agreed to fight with his arms tied behind his back."
Andromeda stepped forward: "who cares about all that," she said, "I want to know how grandma is doing!" The Lion winced but then suddenly looked very pleased with himself. "Well actually," he said, "I have had great success with your grandma. Not only have I captured the matriarch of the Agency but I forced her into giving me the secret ingredient of her apple pie recipe!" "Oh no!" wailed Andromeda, "Grandpa is going to be furious!" The Lion wanted to strut up and down but his tummy really was hurting too badly. "Why?" he said, "because his wife was captured or because my interrogation techniques are so good that she gave in?" "No," replied Andromeda miserably, "Grandpa had bet Grandma that you would not be stupid enough to fall for the 'laxative in the apple pie' trick, but you did, and now he has to wash the dishes for a whole month!"
The Lion looked horrified as his stomach gave a huge gurgle; he had to disappear into the bushes for a while before re-emerging. He could see some of his men sniggering but he wasn't going to deal with that just yet. "Ok," he yelled, "so what is your cunning plan then?" "I am just going to go under this rock and wait," replied the doctor, "we have food and water down there, we are not in a rush." The Lion stared at them: "well I can wait longer than you," he said, "and your food will not last long with the stupid, fat, stuck-up, spoiled little brat down there!" "I AM NOT FAT!" screeched Andromeda. "Come, Andromeda," said Pheidippides, "we can just go down there and wait." The Lion replied: "and when you finally surrender I will go down in history as the greatest commander since the battle of St Augustine." "Actually," replied the small tortoise, "you are going to go down as the worst commander since the battle of Ai; because there is something very important you have overlooked."
So: what had the Lion overlooked? What was going to happen?
"And what exactly do you, in your tiny little hole, think I have overlooked?" demanded the Lion. "Well," responded the doctor, "you have captured one our most important people; right?" "Yes" replied the Lion smugly. "And you live in the warehouse, the most heavily defended building in the SHOP empire, correct?" continued the doctor. "Yes again," said the Lion even more smugly. "And you have two hundred of the most qualified soldiers in SHOP?" the small tortoise continued. "Correct again," said the Lion very happily indeed. "So, where is your heavily defended building and where are your soldiers?" asked Dr Pheidippides. "Well, my soldiers are here with me and my warehouse is ... NO!" screamed the Lion. "Everyone, quick, back to the warehouse!"
The animals sprinted down the forest pathway only to reach a screeching halt when they came to the very thick and very finished web. Peering through the small gaps they could see four giant tortoises and thousands of tiny tortoises advancing upon the warehouse. As they watched they saw flashes of light coming from the tortoises and bursts of flame coming from the warehouse walls. With only a handful of guards left; the building could not last long. "Quickly, cut through!" screeched the Lion. The animals set to work cutting busily; while a swarm of bees set to work stinging as many of them as they could.
The loud crash informed the Agents that the outer wall of the warehouse had now given in; they looked up to see the giant tortoises closing in on the main building. "We're almost through!" called one of the foxes trying to cut the web. "You may not want to do that," called out a small voice from down the pathway. "Why not!" yelled the lion. "Well," said Doctor Pheidippides, "if you run down there now you will have run a total of ten miles and you will be running into almost the entire Agency Battle Fleet including the whole grand-council who will have been hearing exactly how you treated Theia." The Lion hesitated. "I would also point out," said Winston, "that in the last few months you have attempted two assassinations of an Agency colonel." "And you planned an attack on a human child," added the Doctor gravely. "AND I'm going to tell them you call me fat!" added Andromeda indignantly. "Of course, I'm sure Theia would love to hear what you thought of her pie!" added Pheidippides happily. The Lion had heard enough; he fled with his army through the forest.
The three team members looked at each other happily. Suddenly Andromeda frowned: "you don't think I'm fat do you?" she asked Dr Pheidippides. "I think perhaps we should go see how your grandma is doing," replied the small tortoise.