I look at my friend and feel a warm happiness spread through my body. After days of not seeing her, she’s finally back. Mud breaks into my happiness though.
“Get down,” he whispers harshly as he pulls me to the floor.
“What the?!” I exclaim in a half whisper. Then I see it. Passing by the end of the hall, is a flooder with an Octosnipe riding on the top.
“Squid form! Now!” my companion orders. Instantly, I do as he says and shrink.
The flooder moves on, but the Octosnipe is very suspicious of the new ink trails. Once it’s gone, Mud and I reveal ourselves.
“That was way too close,” he mutters tersely. I agree. Then the boy looks over to the cell I pointed out earlier. “This is your friend, eh?”
“Yes. That’s her.”
She’s still sitting with her back to us, leaning against the invisible wall. I tap on the cell. She looks up then turns around to face us. She stares at me as if I’m a ghost then, slowly, she begins to smile.
Mud starts blasting away at the wall, coloring the entire thing green. When he finishes, a single, square hole near the top is revealed.
With out hesitation, I swim up to the hole and blast some ink onto the floor for me to stand on. Then I drop into the cell.
“Splat!” the Octoling cries and we embrace. It’s been so long. Too long.
Mud sits in the hole, looking down at the moment. He clears his throat to get our attention. I look up.
“Oh yeah,” I chuckle, “Mud, this is Cirrina. Cirrina, this is Mud.”
My friend waves to him. “Hey.” She smiles then looks back to me. “Why are you two here?”
Mud speaks before I can. “We be out for blood… and cookies.”
“What?” Cirrina asks in confusion.
I roll my eyes. “Mud, stop that. We came to get you and the great Zapfish.”
“Uh, right…” Mud frowns, “but I’m still gonna grab some cookies while I’m here. The Octarian’s have the best recipe!” He tosses down a rope.
I shake my head and pass the rope to Cirrina. “So this is what I’ve had to deal with while you’ve been here.” I motion to Mud
He groans. “Can we get on with it? We have work to do.”
“Well, it’s better than being here.” Cirrina continues our conversation as she climbs the rope. “Although, this was a decent spy opportunity, ya know?”
“How so?” asks Mud, as he hoists her up.
“Well an Octo can learn quite a bit from the guards and other prisoners if they pay attention. For instance, the prisoner in the cell next to mine was being moved here three days ago. Guards thought I was sleeping. I managed to learn that there have been random snipings in the valley. Someone has been taking out Octarians without being seen. I assume that was you, Splat?”
I shake my head. “Nope. Not me.”
“Really?” She sounds surprised.
Mud seems thoughtful. “Hmm… What else did you learn?” the boy asks.
“The map that leads to the Great Zapfish is in the guard’s office,” she tells him casually.
Mud’s face lights up. “Perfect! Now that’s in-tell! Do you know where it is?”
Cirrina smirks. “Down the hall, turn left, pass up three more lefts, then make a right.”
“Dang, Cirrina.” I laugh as I start climbing the rope. “I knew you were good at eavesdropping, but this is pretty impressive.”
Mud hops down to the hallway and readies his weapon. “Then let’s get going. After you Cirrina.”
She jumps down into a spot of Octo Ink, careful not to step into the green. That’s when I realize that we can’t change her ink type until we get back to the agency, and that might cause some problems…
I jump, landing next to Mud. Cirrina and I share a grin. We’re both happy to be a team again.
We follow our new teammate down the corridor, past all other prisoners. Some stare at us like we are phantoms. Other yell at us to release them. The rest have no idea what is going on.
“What happens if they tell the guards?” I ask Mud, a bit worried.
Cirrina scowls and mutters, “If they don’t shut up they’ll attract the guards!”
“Nothing we can do about it, girls,” answers Mud, “We just need to move fast.”
“Right! Ikou. This way!” Cirrina leads us. I notice that she’s still slipping ancient language into her speech. She doesn’t ever care who hears her. She loves the language.
We quickly find the office, but two Octarians are inside. Mud stops us from going in.
“Hold on,” he commands, “We need to play this carefully.”
“Yeah, no we don’t,” says Cirrina. Before I can stop her, she ducks past Mud, runs inside the office and punches an Octarian.
“I told you to stop doing that!” I exclaim and hurry to fend off the other.
Mud stands there, watching the surprising brawl. Cirrina took the enemy completely off guard. I had no problem dealing with the other.
After the fight is over, I turn to my friend. “How many times do I have to tell you-”
“Oh come on! That was the easiest one yet!” Cirrina laughs, cutting me off.
Mud walks over to a locker and smashes the lock. The boy finds an Octoshot and Inktank. He looks to Cirrina. “Next time you want to do something like that, at least warn us first.” He tosses the things to her.
She catches them. “It’s not as much fun that way.”
“Cirrina, we’re not here to have fun,” I tell her, exasperated. “We’re here on a highly dangerous rescue mission. We’re going to have to think some things through this time.”
As I turn away from her, she mutters, “I always think things through. You know that.” I say nothing to this. She may think things through, but she does it very incorrectly.
A map of the complex hangs on the wall. Mud removes and looks over it. “Ok,” the boy begins, “it should be easy to find our way now. We just need to be quiet and we should be safe. Follow me!”
At the same moment, Cirrina and I reply.
I say, “Roger that!”
She say, “Ryokai!”
We look at each other and grin.
“You guys are weird,” Mud notes. “But I like that!”
Cirrina smiles. “Yeah, we get that a lot.
“Especially from Spyke!” I add.
“Yabai! Yes! He thinks we’re crazy.”
“I’m starting to agree with him,” I admit.
A look of concern sweeps over Mud’s face, but it soon washes off. We follow him as he follows the map down the hall. Cirrina passes me her inktank.
“Fill this for me, yeah?”
I nod, take the item, and dip into our green ink. When I resurface, it’s completely filled with our color. I check the seal before I pass it back to Cirrina. She puts it on her back.
“Anytime Ciri. Are you gonna be good though? You’re set to be using Octo ink, but you’re actually using ours…”
She waves my concern aside. “I’ve done this before. I’ll be fine, as always.”
Before long, the sound of a flooder makes us stop. “Time to hide,” Mud says. Before he dives, he shoots the left side of the hallway. “#3, get to the wall!” He ducks into his ink.
As I make a dash, I grin. “Can’t avoid hiding this time, Cirrina. Remember the last time you tried to take on a flooder?”
“Don’t remind me, Splat,” she groans and shrinks down.
I barely make it to the ink on the wall. The flooder passes a few feet by the inklings. It’s not as wide as the hallway, leaving just two feet on both sides of the machine. Once it rounds a corner, and is out of sight, Mud pops up.
“We good?” he asks.
Cirrina appears from the octo ink in the middle of the hallway. “Yep!”
“Good. #3? Are you good too?”
“Yeah,” I say as I emerge, “but I think our conversation has been distracting me. Can we be silent from here on out?”
“I like that idea,” admits Mud and continues to walk.
“Fine,” Cirrina consents.
We keep going. Mud eventually leads our team to an air conditioning unit… by mistake. The boy studies the map sheepishly. “Oops… we turned the wrong way somewhere back there.”
Cirrina gives me an exasperated look, as if to say, “Where’d you get this moron?” I glare at her. Mud completely misses our interaction.
He looks at the machine and the large vents. “Think I have an idea,” the assassin tells us. “What if we used the air vent to get around the base?”
Cirrina and I look at each other and shrug. “That might work,” I say.
Mud pulls out his knife to cut away the thin grate blocking the vent. A moment the later is grate is off. Mud climbs in and gasps. “Sheesh, it’s chilly in here.”
Cirrina rolls her eyes. “Well, yeah.”
As soon as we enter the vent, it forks left an right. Mud frowns. “The map is no good in here. Which way do you think?”
As always, Cirrina responds with a stupid, sarcastic remark. “The general direction of the Zapfish,” she says.
“Well, duh, but I don’t know which way that is. Let’s just take the right. It’s fifty fifty anyway.”
Cirrina shrugs. “Whateves.”
We crawl through the vents as they turn and twist through the building. The vents give us a good view of the Octarians without being seen. Soon, Mud stops again and motions for us to do so too.
“What’s up?” I whisper.
He sniffs the air. “Do you smell that?”
“Uh… yes,” answers Cirrina.
“It smells like…” He sniffs again. “A kitchen!” He takes a look at the map. “If we are where we think we are, we should be able to get to the factory if we jump down. The kitchen connects to the factory. We could just walk right in.”
I am naturally doubtful. “Yeah, and get shot by the guards?” I point out.
Cirrina grins. “Oh come on. We can take anything!”
“As much as I agree with #3,” Mud starts slowly, “we don’t know where this thing goes. We could go the wrong way, and we know the way if we get out now… but still guards… not very fun…”
“There can’t be that many and we’ve handled worse. Remember the time you and I were trapped in a room with fifty Octarians?”
“Cirrina that didn’t go well?” I remind her tiredly. Her constant desire to run into danger is exhausting.
She persists. “We destroyed them!”
“We nearly died!”
“It was nothing. We took them all out.”
“Yeah,” I agree, “and we nearly took ourselves out in the process.”
“So what’s it gonna be?” Mud asks, cutting off our argument. “Stay and crawl or risk the guards?”
Cirrina does not hesitate. “I say we take the guards.”
Mud looks at me. “#3, what about you?”
I sigh. It’s so hard to try to keep Cirrina safe… she’s got such a huge desire for danger. I can’t keep up with her anymore. I’ve tried for six years. I can’t.
“You’re the leader,” I say, admitting defeat. “Whatever you say.”
Mud seems a bit overwhelmed by my answer. “I am? …oh… wow…. very well. I say down.”
Cirri and I look at each other and I ask the question we’re both thinking. “Aren’t you the leader?”
“Honestly, I thought it was a team effort. Ok, here we go!” Once again, he pulls out his knife and opens the air duct. Cirrina jumps down.
“I thought you were the leader by default,” I say quietly to Mud. “You know, since you’re the best here and you’ve been in the agency longest.” I jump down after Cirrina.
Mud also jump, then answers me. “That makes sense, but I’ve never been a leader before. It’s always been just me.” He studies the room, looking around the kitchen. “Good. It’s empty.”
“Let’s go then,” Cirrina urges us.
I continue our conversation, asking, “Don’t you get lonely?”
“Well… sometimes,” admits Mud, “but that’s just life. Someone needs to be out here, otherwise the Octarians would walk all over Inkopolis.” I say nothing to that. Mud continues as he heads for the door. “Any hoo, that’s enough of that talk for now. How are we looking out there, Cirrina.”
Mud groans. “What is it?”
“We have a bit of a problem,” responds the Octoling.
“Tell me.” He starts splatting the ground, even though there is no enemy ink.
“That!” She points upwards. I look to see a camera, with a red flashing light.
Mud’s eyes widen and he cries out. “Oh SNAP!!!” He shoots the camera. “We need to move, now!”
Cirrina and I agree. As we exit the kitchen, an alarm breaks out. Mud points to a door.
“There! Go through there!” he orders us. We do as he says.
Six Octarians wait for us on the other side. Mud takes one outs before diving to cover. Cirrina, however, runs straight at them with her gun.
“Cover her!” Mud shouts as he pops two more enemies. I start sniping.
All six of them get a hail of ink. When the fight is over, I notice Cirrina wasn’t hit at all and she almost seems disappointed by the lack of a challenge.
Mud walks over to Cirrina. To my horror he grabs her firmly by the neck!
“What were you thinking?!” he yells at her, “Don’t just run head on into an ambush! You need to take this carefully or we won’t be walking out of here!”
Cirrina winces. “You’re as strict as #2.”
“Says the one who was captured.” He releases his hold on her and walks away.
Cirrina doubles over, her hands at the base of her neck. She looks as if Mud scared her a little bit. An Octarian insult, directed at the boy, escapes her lips.
I speak her language, so I understand her. I glare at the girl.
Mud stops and looks back at her. When their eyes lock, something about Cirrina seems to… change. She looks frightened. No. Terrified.
Then Mud, in the Octarian language, replies to her insult. “Don’t get your tentacles in a knot, sweetheart.” Cirrina looks even more startled when she realizes he understood her. I’m also surprised. Then the boy switches back to his native language. “Every Octo will be looking for us now. Watch your backs.” He runs for the nearby factory.
Cirrina straightens up. She seems different now. Like she’s finally taking this seriously and done treating it as a game. Maybe Mud has convinced her?