I am awake, sitting up in bed, when they arrive. Callie, Marie, and Mud have come. The others were told to go home and rest.
“Hey, you. How do you feel?” Marie asks as she sits in a nearby chair.
I smile wanly. “Sore. Very sore.”
Mud takes a seat. “Understandable, you took a real blow.”
“The doc says you’re going to live,” Callie tells me.
I nod. “I was so scared. When I was falling, I thought, ‘This is it. It doesn’t matter if I want to leave or not. My part in the agency is over,’… but I’m still here. I guess it’s a good thing. I mean, who else is gonna deliver orders for Spyke?” I smile brightly.
“You were lucky,” says Callie.
Marie looks thoughtful. “Yeah, it was a close one, wasn’t it? We seem to get those a lot lately, don’t we?”
The other two nod. I glance between them. All of them look very serious and I feel like I’m missing something.
“…What… do you mean?” I ask cautiously. “Did something else happen?”
Then they tell me the tale of what had happened over the last day. I feel my face go pale when they explain what happened to Cirrina.
“Is… is Cirrina going to be ok?”
Mud nods. “Don’t worry, she’s just going to wake up with a headache and no memory of what happened. Other than that, she’s good as gold.”
Relief washes over me. “Thank goodness.”
“Anyway,” begins Marie, “after you make your recovery we think you should take some time off. A vacation if you will.
I hesitate a moment before saying, “I… Thank you. I’ve actually been thinking of requesting a leave of absence recently. I want to visit home again.”
Callie smile brightly. “That would be a great idea.”
“Then you could spend some time with Spyke,” adds Marie.
I merely nod.
“We should really let you get some rest now. We’ll let you know how Cirrina is doing when she wakes up.” Mud and the girls stand.
“Ok. See you guys later.” Then the three leave and I turn to my thoughts.
The next morning, they go to visit Cirrina. Spyke greets them at the door. “Mornin’ Loves,” he says with a smile as he lets them in. “Cirrina’s in the kitchen. Poor girl had a rough night.”
Marie nods. “Thanks Spyke.”
They find Cirrina looking very tired. She sits at the table, trying to draw. Her hands are still shaking though and her eyes are still dilated. Her breakfast is untouched. She looks up when they enter the room.
“Good morning Cirrina,” Callie says as she sits down beside Cirrina. “How do you feel?”
She shakes her head. “I feel like my head is going to shatter. Last I remember Amphi and Kapal were leaving. Spyke told me a little about what happened, but said he didn’t know much… What did happen to me?”
Gently, the three explain to her. They only give her the bare minimum of detail. When they finish, Mud hands her a container of ice cream. “Here. I find it helps the effects ware off quicker, and it helps with the headache.”
She takes it and starts putting some in a bowl. Callie looks at the Cirrina thoughtfully. “Hey, Cirrina…. how did you know that you were gonna ‘lose it’?”
Cirrina glances up. “I stole one of Callisto’s books and took it with me when I left eight years ago. I didn’t know what it was then. Turns out it’s a book on poisons. I’ve read it through many times. Callisto wrote a lot in it though. Notes on how to make the toxins more lethal.” Cirrina shudders.
Mud seems lost in thought for a moment, his mind trying to work out some algorithm that plagues his mind. Finally he says, “Well, I guess I have some work cut out for me.”
“Hey, I just thought of something. What if the poison she used on me was some sort of enhanced poison?”
“Judging by the symptoms, I say you got hit with the regular stuff,” the boy tells me.
Marie looks at her cousin, her eyebrow raised. “Who made you an expert on poison?”
He shrugs. “This is not the first time I’ve seen this stuff in action.”
“Are you sure, Mud?” she asks fearfully. “I thought the effect would have worn off by now.”
“Don’t worry Cirrina. It’s normal,” a voice says from the window. I look up, startled, and see my older brother Argo. He’s sitting there on the sill of the open window. “She ran out of the special stuff last week.”
The inklings whip around and stare in shock at the Octoling… except for Mud. He draws his knife and jumps at the enemy soldier.
Argo drops into the house, ducking under the window. “Hello to you too,” Argo say coolly. He moved just in time. Mud misses the target and flies past him, straight out the open window.
“I MADE AN OOPS!!!” Mud shouts as he falls to the ground.
Cirrina and the Squid Sisters have to fight giggles and Argo laughs openly. The laughter dies down quickly, though.
Callie addresses Cirrina’s brother. “May I ask what you are doing here?”
“Listen to me good. The others don’t know I’m here…. but I want to talk to you agents.”
“Ok, talk,” Marie orders. “Oh, wait hold on a second.”
The sound of a furious Inkling erupts from the front door. Mud comes in again. “Now I got you!” He charges at the Octo at full speed.
Callie groans. “Not again.”
Argo takes a step to the side an watches Mud slam into the fridge. “You done?” Argo asks.
“He’s here to talk! Not to fight!” exclaims Callie.
Marie helps Mud straighten up. “Are you ok?”
“I’m fine. I broke the impact with my face,” answers Mud. Argo smirks. The Inkling boy looks at the Octo one. “So what’s the deal? Why are you looking for us.”
Argo looks at the ground for a moment, searching for words. “I must take a lot of courage to break oath…” he says quietly. “I don’t enjoy having to hunt my sister. I hate it, so I’m gonna give her a head start. A little boost… Next time she and I meet, I won’t be able to spare her.” He looks over at Mud. “You…”
“Spit it out man! What are you trying to say?!” Mud cries out, impatient.
Argo grimaces. “I’m not speaking as an Octarian soldier or as a rebel. Only as her brother. I can’t protect her anymore, so I’m asking you to protect her for me. Please,” Argo has an urgent look on his face. “I can’t. You can.”
Mud stands there in silence, now realizing what Argo is asking. Mud takes a deep breath. “I can’t promise anything, but I will do my best to protect your sister… but it will come with a price.”
Argo stiffens. “What is it?”
“In the ruins of the old city, there is a park of sorts. It’s in between two tall apartment buildings, and the middle of the park is a stone pillar with lots of engravings on it. Do you know which park I’m talking about?” Argo nods. “Good. I want you to meet me there in two weeks. You come alone, but come armed… and bring six boxes of cookies. I’ll meet you there and tell you what I need.”
“Uhh… ok?” Argo says, slightly confused.
Callie shakes her head. “He has a thing for cookies.”
“I see. My sister’s care is entirely in your hands now, Inkling. Don’t mess it up. I need to get back before I’m missed.” Argo turns to leave through the window.
Marie nods. “Ok. Be careful out there.”
“Argo wait!” Cirrina cries. She hops up and throws her arms round her brother. She rest her forehead on his back, between his shoulders. Do you have to go?”
“Yes. If I want him to protect my sis.”
“I want you to protect me.”
He doesn’t look back at her. “I have to protect the Little Ones. Plus someone has to keep Callisto in line.”
“Good bye Cirrina.” He breaks away from her and leaves the way he entered. They hear the boy drop to the ground then, a moment later, he says, “I’ll see you some other time then. Good luck, Amphi.” The the sound of his quick footsteps fade away.
There is a moment of silence as nobody really knows what to say after that. Slowly, nervously, Cirrina walks to the window. The silence is broken when Mud says, “He better bring me those cookies.”
Callie slaps him on the back of the head playfully. “You really know how to ruin a moment, bub!” she chuckles.
Cirrina is at the window, looking out. What she sees sends excitement through her body. “Amphi!”
The little girl Octo looks up gleefully. “Hey, Cissy! Could you guys use another agent?”
“Him?!” Marie asks in surprise.
“We could use the inside help,” admits Callie.
“No, me!” Amphi says as she pulls herself onto the window sill. “I’m a girl and I’m breaking Oath! Argo knows and helped me get here.”
Marie puts her hands on her hips. “That’s a pretty bold move, little lady. Welcome here.”
Amphi smiles and hops from the window, into the kitchen.
“Although we could use your help,” continues Marie, “I think you are a bit on the young side, but I don’t think there’s any problem with you staying with your sister.”
Amphi frowns. “I was in the Octarian Army up to this point. They used me for getting in places and planting bombs.”
Mud suddenly pipes up. “You did what?! What bombs?”
“Lots of bombs! Ones in the past. Ones recently… but, for some reason, they never set them off.”
“Do you remember where?” Mud asks, almost panicking… almost.
She puts her arms behind her and looks at the ground. “Not everywhere…”
“If I find a map, can you point out where the ones you remember are?”
“Yup!” she says brightly.
Mud turns to the door. “Then follow me, Agent Amphi! We have work to do!” The small child smile and follows him. The two run off to HQ to talk about the new threat.
Marie looks to Cirrina. “Did you know about the bombs, Cirrina?”
“No. I didn’t. She entered the army after I left.”
“This could be really bad,” Callie points out grimly. “Who knows what the Octarians are planning to do with those things?”
“Yeah…” Cirrina shudders and sits back down. The girl starts eating her now half melted ice cream. “I… I can hardly believe the that they would send Amphi to plant them. If one of them accidentally detonated… she’s so young.”
Marie puts a hand on the Octo’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. She’s safe here and we’ll make sure it stays that way.”
Cirrina merely nods in response. She’s still shaking and her headache makes her want to go to bed.
“Ok little lady!” Mud says as he places a map of Octo valley on the table of the HQ. Handing her a red marker, he says, “Show me where those bombs are please.”
Amphi looks at the map intently then she begins to write numbers in various places. “Five… two… six… nine… You!” She suddenly points at Mud with one hand and keeps writing with the other. She doesn’t look up with her work. “Do you have, or can you draw up, blue prints for these places or something?”
“Er, I might,” the boy tells her, taken off guard. “Which buildings?”
“Ummm… nine… three… Let me see…” She starts pointing to places she had marked. “An old hospital here. A park at this place. The building we’re in now. A rundown hotel here. This shack over here. This whole canyon, and the big, old building here!” She points to a place she’d yet to mark. It the area near Mud’s place.
“Wait wait wait!” Mud interrupts her. “Did you just say there’s a bomb in this building?”
“Huh? Yeah. Only two though. There was supposed to be twenty, but I nearly got caught and was told to abort mission. You want me to show you where the are?” she asks looking up at him.
“No, I want you to go for ice cream,” the boy answers sarcastically. “YES, I WANT TO FIND THOSE BOMBS!!!”
“Come on!” She jumps up and runs outside. Mud runs after her, expecting the worst. “It’s up there.” she says as she points up at the roof. Then she starts to climb the side of the building.
“Both or just one?” he asks and climbs after her.
“Only one. Huh? Hey! You can climb good too! I’m the best climber in the Octarian Army. That’s why they sent me on bombing missions. That and I’m real small.” The girl reaches the top in a moment.
“You know there is a perfectly good set of stairs inside that go to the roof?”
“Oh, really? No, I didn’t.” She bends down and moves a piece of the roof, revealing a hidden compartment. Inside it is a long coil of rope. She begins tying one end around her waist.
Mud makes it onto the roof and sees what Amphi is doing. “Dare I ask what that is?”
“It’s a rope,” the child tells him confidently. “It’s so you can pull me out when I’m done or if the bomb starts to go off.” She pulls on the rope to make sure it’s tied well.
Mud is alarmed by how calm this girl is. “Ok… maybe I should be the one to go in.”
“Oh no. You’re too big.” She holds the loose end of the rope out for Mud to take.
The boy shrinks down to squid form and looks up at her. “You were saying?”
“But you have to come out of that form in order to disable the bomb,” she points out. “Also, you don’t know how these bombs work.”
He pops back into kid form. “… good point.”
Amphi smiles brightly and leads him to a small air duct. “Over here.”
He picks up the rope. “Are you sure this is safe?”
“As safe as it can be in our circumstances.”
“Comforting.” Mud’s voice is full of sarcasm. Amphi is already crawling into the little gap. She drops down a little, then starts crawling. “How far do you need to go before you find it?”
“Um… just until the first bend. I don’t know how far it is exactly.”
“Ok. Please be careful. If something goes wrong your sister will kill me, then clone me, then kill all my clones, each in a different way, and then the girls would never talk to me again.”
Her voice echos back through the shaft. “Of course the wouldn’t. You’d be dead, silly.”
“Still.” He steps closer to the shaft, so she can hear him better. “How you doing in there?”
“I’m good. Oh! I see the bomb now.”
“Good. You know what to do. Disable it, then bring it here.”
“Right!” She reaches the bomb and begins working.
Mud shifts nervously. “Now, you said that there is another one, correct?”
“Where is the other one?”
She seems distracted as she answers. “It’s, um, down. Oh my gosh! I nearly broke the wrong wire! Dude, you need to be quiet so I can focus on not getting exploded!”
“Sorry!” He holds his tongue, praying that she won’t make a mistake. He waits in anticipation for her to finish. A few moments later, she crawls out. In her hands is a red and black piece of technology.
She smiles up at Mud. “Got it!”
“Good. Now let’s take a look at this device.”
She hands him the bomb. “Whatever you do, do not touch the that black button there.” She points to a button that is barely visible against the black surface of the bomb. “It will send a direct signal to the Octarians and they’ll know it’s been tampered with. Then they’ll send out an electro-magnetic wave that will trigger and activate all the bombs I’ve placed so far.”
“Got it. No touchie black button.” Looking over the bomb, he says, “It’s smaller than I thought.”
“It’s small, yes, but still devastating. If it went off right now, the whole roof would be gone.” She throws her arms in the air and grins. “Boom!”
“Let’s get rid of it.”
The child cocks her head. “How?”
“There’s a place we can store the bombs for now,” he tells her. “It’s out of the way and should not do us any damage if they go off, but first we need that other bomb.”
“Right! Follow me!” She turns but stops. “Where are the steps you mentioned earlier?”
“Through that door.” He points to the roof access door.
“Right! Follow me!”
Mud watches her march over to the door and head down stairs for a moment. Then he follows her. She takes him down to the first floor.
“It’s down here?” Mud asks in surprise.
“Yeah. This is the one I nearly got caught placing. Come on. It’s in the weaponry.”
A frown crosses the boy’s face. “That would be a bad place for that to go off.”
“Yup! That was the point!” She takes him to the very back of the room. There is a locker of weapons in need of repair. “In here.”
“Be careful! Some of these things are not very stable,” Mud warns her.
She points at the weapons. “It’s behind them.”
They move the damaged weapons to reveal the bomb. “Ok, do your thing.”
She nods. Bending down she sets to work on the device. “First, we disable the shield… there. Now, time to really work.” She reaches into her pocket and produces a pair of pliers, a knife, and a sheet of paper. She cuts three wires. Moves another. Looks at the paper. Examines the bomb. Looks at the paper again. Then puts in a code on the bomb’s control panel. After cutting another wire, she pries the thing from where it is set. It leaves a small mark behind, but no other damage to the locker. She holds up the explosive. “Done.”
Mud takes it. “Nice. Now we just need to get rid of these little horrors.”
An hour later, they find the spot Mud mentioned. It is a large, open field that had obviously been used to test large weapons and bombs. Some of the surrounding buildings have blast damage on the,.
“We can put them here and dispose of them safely… once we get the rest.”
“Ok!” the girl says cheerfully.
He looks down at her. “I think we have some of those blueprints that you wanted, back at HQ. Hopefully we can deal with this quickly.”
“Good! I can mark the exact location of each bomb with those.”
He picks her up and the two head back.
“Hey kiddos,” Captain Cuttlefish greets them, “how’s it going?”
Mud looks over the papers. “Well, it’s going, not sure how exactly, but it is going somewhere.”
Amphi looks at the Captain, then scoots closer to Mud. “Who is the weird guy?” she whispers.
“That’s Captain Cuttlefish. He’s our commanding officer,” the boy explains.
Amphi looks back at her work. “He’s weird…”
“That’s one way of putting it.”
Captain Cuttlefish comes over and looks at Amphi. “So you must be Cirrina’s sister.” She nods. “Well, welcome aboard kiddo! What have you got there?” he asks, looking at the maps and blueprints.
Amphi is shy. “Um… they’re map showing the placement of bombs that… I… planted for the Octos…”
“Good thing she’s here, eh?” Mud asks with a concerned face.
The Captian nods. “No kidding.”
“How man are there?!” exclaims #2 as she sees the papers. The list of buildings is growing.
“Um… I’m not exactly sure…” Amphi admits. “I think this is the tenth blue print… but there are more I still have to mark.”
#1 scowls. “Dang it. It’s going to to take months to get all those deactivated.”
“Then it looks like we have our work cut out for us,” says Mud, his tone grim as he watches Amphi continue to mark the locations of the explosives.