- During P5
- no defense like a good offense (Post 3rd Semester to Train Scene | 02/17 to 04/17)
- the pen is mightier (Scramble | 07/17 to 08/17)
- to have loved and lost (2018)
- no free lunch (2019)
During the events of P5, the Shadow Ops notice that something is very wrong in Tokyo, but due to a combination of Yaldabaoth's influence and interference from Shido's conspiracy, they are left with frustrating dead ends. They take notice of the Phantom Thieves, but are unable to figure out what is going on until Shido has his change of heart and confesses. This is what allows them to dig into what is available of Wakaba's research, which turns out to be frustratingly little due to the Conspiracy locking it away.
Furthermore, the P1/P2 cast find they cannot enter the Velvet Room, which has never happened to them. The Shadow Ops resources are split due to the P1/P2 cast prioritizing the Velvet Room's disappearance.
Once third semester hits, looking into Wakaba's research is further blocked due to Maruki changing reality. They do, however, become more cognizant of some sort of fuckery involving the Collective Unconscious due to the Velvet Room becoming accessible again. Via Igor, they learn of what has happened. Via Lavenza, they learn that Goro Akechi is a key player and must be rescued.
Post-P5R, Goro gets captured by the remnants of the conspiracy. The Shadow Ops finally finish working through what scraps of Wakaba's research they could find. They put the pieces together with Nanjo's records of Sebek and Nanjo researchers who have been spotted with known members of the Conspiracy, as well as ex-Kirijo researchers. To their shock, Wakaba was once a Kirijo researcher and Shido has brief contact with the New World Order.
They use this information to track down where the research labs of the Conspiracy are, all while looking for Goro Akechi. They find him eventually at a research lab, where he is being held. Baofu—now having lived as Kaoru Saga again for almost two decades—and Fuuka nail down the location and discover an underground recruitment for specialists in psychotherapy. They've got a bad feeling about the whole thing, and Maki Sonomura volunteers to go in as a specialist (which she is).
There, she discovers that Goro Akechi is being kept in heavy sedation. The Conspiracy desire to continue using him to infiltrate the Metaverse, which they can bring back with their research, and continue carrying out their plans. However, he is not cooperative, and they desire a way to make him obedient while still letting him maintain his power of Persona.
Maki is disgusted by their plans, but she's primarily on an information seeking mission until the Shadow Ops can devise a plan to rescue Goro. She plays along, which unfortunately requires doing 'research' on Goro and telling the Conspiracy ways of maintaining his mind well enough to keep his Persona without making him snap, but they aren't satisfied. After a week, she realizes they're displeased with her soft approach and are considering other, more direct methods of brainwashing to get the job done. Her ability to contact the Shadow Ops is limited, and before she can hear back from them, she learns that the Conspiracy will use demons to brainwash Goro into doing their bidding.
Furious at how callously they're treating him and faced with limited time and practically no sway over the Conspiracy's decisions, Maki disregards her orders and puts her life at risk to rescue Goro. She uses the Velvet Room to relay a message to Eriko, and then prepares. Using her Persona, she enters the research lab late at night and disables the guards. She then tries to carry Goro out, but he awakens and attempts to fight her. Even though he's physically weakened, he's still not weak, and Maki struggles to make him see she's not there to harm him.
In the meantime, the Conspiracy have sent out guards. Frustrated, Maki deals with the situation by summoning Skuld and fighting anyone sent after them out with Eternal Black, leaving them near death. Goro freaks out at seeing her summon a Persona, and he's too discombobulated to realize what's going on. Maki apologizes, puts him to sleep, then carries him out on her back with some struggle, using her Persona to harm anyone who tries to stop her. As the Conspiracy can only rely on non-Persona methods of attack, like guns, Maki has an easy time due to Skuld reflecting all non-magic.
Then a 'specialist' shows up and summons demons, and Maki realizes she's at risk of being beaten. Thankfully, the time wasted was enough for backup to arrive, and Nanjo, Brown, and Eriko arrive in disguise to help her escape. Nanjo and Brown fight off demons while Eriko helps cover Maki to their escape vehicle. They pile into an unmarked vehicle and take off, but not before Maki and Eriko leave a parting shot of sleep to everyone they can.
In the car, they discuss the ramifications of demons appearing. Eriko fangirls but also points out the presence of demons means there's more going on than just Persona users, and they will need the help of Devil Summoners if the Conspiracy has the ability to tap into the Expanse. The four present agree to talk to Mitsuru and see what can be done.
Once back at HQ, Goro is taken to the infirmary and is treated. Mitsuru, who has gone over as many of his files and personal information as she can access, asks Maki to help them get through to him. Maki agrees, although she doesn't know how much he would be willing to speak to her thanks to her manhandling him out of the Conspiracy so roughly, but Mitsuru says she has faith in her.
When Goro first awakens, he's stubbornly silent and refuses to engage anyone in conversation. Maki makes attempts, but he won't speak to her. He also attempts to escape a few times, but that's quickly brought to a halt by the other Shadow Ops. Seeing his frustration, Maki pours over his files and pieces together everything as best she can. She takes a gamble and decides what Goro needs the most are adults who will be honest and vulnerable to him.
She spills every detail about her past to him one day, digging deep into her old memories and feelings. She speaks to him about her despair, her nihilism, the call for death that she harbored and still does harbor deep within her soul. She tells him about how the mental scars haven't faded and may never fade. She speaks to him about how she still believes, to this day, about how she invited her own suffering.
She also speaks of hope, of resolution, of hanging on to whatever shred of self-dignity and self-respect she could get. Of making amends but also never forgetting the pain she's caused. Of fighting against herself every day of her life but also finding something to live for beyond herself precisely because she's learned to love the part of herself that can love someone else.
This takes place over several days, and when she's finally done, the two of them sit in silence. Goro still won't say a word, and Maki leaves for the day.
The next day, halfway through their silent session, Goro asks her what the Shadow Ops is keeping him around for. She's shocked, because this is the first time he's spoken to her like that, and she answers his questions as best she can. She explains the purpose of the Shadow Ops, of how they're now trying to find a way to fight against the Conspiracy, which is still at large.
Goro tells her that he's known for a long time the Conspiracy was larger than Shido, but he didn't give a damn about anything else other than him. He had only concerned himself with making Shido fall and acknowledge him, regardless of what else might happen. With that said, he says he knows the Conspiracy used Shido, not the other way around, and he sarcastically wishes the Shadow Ops luck in trying to stop them.
This is when Public Safety catches on to Goro's existence. They demand Mitsuru turn him over, as he is a criminal and the Shadow Ops have no power to keep him from them. Mitsuru attempts to fight them, but as the Shadow Ops are on shaky ground with the police and hold on real power, she loses the legal battle and is forced to hand Goro over.
Public Safety takes him, and this is when Goro passes by Ren's train at the end of P5R.
With Goro taken away, Mitsuru calls together some of the brightest minds versed in legal affairs to find a way—any way—to get Goro back in their hands. Baofu—aka Kaoru Saga—and Naoto Shirogane are called in, and they are asked to find anything they can to prove to Public Safety that Goro Akechi cannot go to prison. Meanwhile, she and Nanjo will attempt to see if they can get their money to talk, although with how much Public Safety has ground their reputations into the dirt, she isn't optimistic.
Maki is livid, but she understands she has virtually no power to do anything. She's gotten attached to Goro despite of (or because of) his stubborn belligerence, and so she reaches out to her contacts. She asks others in her field what they know of Wakaba, her research, and her fate, and uses that information to see if anything can be helpful in reclaiming Goro from the prison system.
Though it takes weeks, eventually they dig up tenuous proof that Goro isn't safe in prison. With so many of the Conspiracy jailed but still loyal, Goro isn't safe in places where he can't and won't be protected. As the Conspiracy's hitman, he's one of the best sources of information on who some of the other members of the Conspiracy are.
Public Safety argues that they've already thoroughly interrogated Goro and he didn't cough up any new names. Furthermore, they express doubt over the validity of his words, saying that Shido is clearly insane when he's speaking about the Metaverse. Mitsuru knows that Public Safety is likely also in the Conspiracy's hands, so trying to rescue Goro using legal, above-board methods won't work. Doing anything illegal is highly risky, because the Shadow Ops don't have enough clout or power to remain in good graces if they get caught.
She, Nanjo, and Baofu come up with several ideas and plans, but none of them are secure enough to even gamble on. Frustrated and running out of time, they briefly entertain using brute force and the power of Persona to get Goro back into their hands.
Then Japan is plunged into chaos thanks to the events of Scramble, although I haven't worked out how I'm going to fit that into the plot, given how little I know about it. Needless to say, the ramifications of Scramble will affect how the Shadow Ops look into the Conspiracy.
Eventually, at the end of all that mess, they decide that getting the public to put pressure on Goro Akechi being released into parole has the highest chance of legally getting him into their hands. They take advantage of the public's negative perception of the government post-Scramble and capitalize on Goro's old popularity, something he hates. With the help of Maya Amano and Ichiko Ohya, they sell Goro as a sob story, and Public Safety releases him to the Shadow Ops for 'parole.'
Baofu also works under the table, taking Ulala, Katsuya, and Reiji as muscle to politely remind Public Safety just how dangerous Persona users are. He tells them a white lie that Goro is likely able to summon his Persona in the real world just like them, and Public Safety has no way to deal with that, they will suffer the consequences. Of course, since Public Safety is a part of the Conspiracy, they do have methods of dealing with Persona users, but they also can't admit it.
At the start of fall 2017, Goro Akechi is released into the Shadow Ops for parole.