Mud looks to the Great Zapfish, trapped in its cage. “Now back to the task in hand,” he says. “How do we get the Great Zaplfish out of the cage?”
“That!…” responds Cirrina as she turns her attention to the problem, “is a good question. How do we get it out?”
“Through the roof,” I tell them simply as I stare upwards. The entire roof of the building is removable. A closer inspection of the top of the cage shows it can be lifted with a crane.
“Those crafty Octos,” scowls Mud. “They lowered it in.”
“Yup. Hey Mud, even if we do get it out of the cage, how how are we getting it back to Inkopolis if there are only three of us?”
“I’m thinking… I’m thinking… I’m… thinking…” Slowly a grin forms on his face.
Cirrina takes a step back from him. “Ok, that scares me. Why is he smiling?” I shrug.
“We need to open those doors! Follow me!” He starts back up the catwalks and Cirrina and I glance at each other before following him. “I have a hunch!” the boy tells us excitedly. “What if they put the Zaplfish in the cage and then put the cage in here? It would be a lot easier, right?”
“Well, yeah, but how are we going to transport that whole cage back to Inkopolis?” I ask him, worried about where this is going.
“Well, I have this idea, more of a hunch actually… and it’s pretty stupid. Definitely in my top ten dumbest ideas yet.”
Cirrina cries out in exasperation. “Great! That’s very reassuring!
We reach the top of the room and find a small door leading to the roof. Mud opens it and we go up. The roof is very large, with two big panels that open to the Zapfish. As we are looking around Mud cries out.
“SCORE!!!! I was right!!!” He takes off running in the direction of a big flying saucer… and when I say “big” I mean it is a very big, flying saucer. Cirrina and I stare.
“Oh no,” I murmur. I just feel the energy drain out of me as I feel the entire weight of this terrible idea crash down on my mind. Mud is crazy.
Next to me, all Cirrina can say is, “Nope. Nope. Nope. Hopping on the Nope Train to Heck No-vile.”
“Oh yes!” Mud cries. “Yep! Yep! Yep!” He climbs onto the ship and opens the cockpit.
“This is madness!” I exclaim as we follow him.
The boy jumps into the pilot seat, not looking at me. “Well, maybe, yes… but think about it. This will be the best way to get the cage out of here.”
“Do you even know how to fly this thing?!” inquires Cirrina.
“Well, yes and no,” is his very un-assuring answer. “Long story short, I stole a smaller one once. So how hard could this be?” He looks over the controls quickly, then starts the machine. “Yes! First try! Now, we need to get the roof doors open. Can you two take care of that?”
“We can try,” answers Cirrina, before I can speak. While Mud gets to work figuring out the controls, Cirrina and I look for the door mechanism. She walks over to a large metal thing. I look back at Mud.
He’s gotten the saucer into the air and is trying his best to keep the monster stable. Every few seconds we hear him cry out. “Whoops! Nope. That’s not right. Good good… SHEESH! No, wait… all good!”
“He is going to kill himself,” I note.
“Come and help me push this!” orders Cirrina. I turn to see her pushing a piece of the metal thing with all her might. Quickly, I join her.
“Is it open yet?!” Mud shouts. Slowly, he’s getting a grip on the controls.
“Come on! Push!” yells Cirri.
“Take your time!” calls Mud and he bumps into a wall. “I’m fine!”
Suddenly, the large switch gives way and we both tumble forward. Then the giant doors begin to open. Mud positions the flying saucer over the doors and lowers himself down as soon as he has room.
“Good work, girls! Now get on!” Cirrina and I super jump and join him on the air craft. “Now,” he says,” I need you to hook the Zaplfish to the ship. I can’t do it from here.”
I stare at him. “But… how?! The cage is charged!”
“I don’t know,” he cries out incredulously. “I’m too focused on not crashing this thing to think about it. This is all you!”
Cirrina and I stare at each other, then super jump to a platform bellow the ship, but above the cage, and start coming up with ways to do this. Suddenly, a massive hook drops down from the bottom of the vessel. Cirrina dashes to the edge of the platform and barely manages to catch the hook, while leaning over the rail.
“There that should help!” the boy calls from above.
I call back. “Yeah, but how do we hook it through?”
“Like this!” I see Cirrna climb onto the rail, the hook in her hand, and jump towards the charged cage. I run to the edge of the platform so that I can watch her as she falls.
“Ten cash says she doesn’t make it!” Mud yells.
Cirrina guides the hook just until she reaches the bars. Then she enters octopus form and both she and the hook fall into the cage. The girl lands onto the back of the Zapfish. Then she stands, looking up at us.
“Hurry up and lift it!” she shouts. “I don’t know how long it’ll be before this thing sparks its whole body in an attempt to kill me!”
“#3, get up here,” Mud orders. I super jump to him, then he pulls up and races for the roof. He sets the cage down on the top. “Get out of there, Cirrina!”
The girl attempts to super jump to me, but gets caught in the electricity charging the cage. “Agh!” She falls back onto the Zapfish, cringing in pain. The the fish sparks and I see Cirrina’s eyes widen before she collapses, falling to the bottom of the cage.
Mud sets the ship to self hover. As soon as he does that, he jumps off and lands in the cage. The pain must be unbelievable. He fights to hold himself up and pulls Cirrina out of the cage, to safe ground.
As soon as they are safe, Mud collapses. Cirrina lays motionless on the roof.
“That… was… not fun…” he moans.
“Guys!” I scream from the ship, staring at Cirrina. Mud crawls her way to her to check if she is ok.
“She’s breathing,” he tells me. “She’s ok. Just out cold.” Relief washes over me, but I’m still shaken. Mud looks up at me. A weak smile on his face. “I’m ready to go home now. How about you?” His voice is tired, gentle, and soothing. I smile lightly and nod.
The door to the factory bursts open, with Octolings rushing onto the roof, their weapons drawn. It’s the same Octolings from before. They have regrouped and are very mad, but they hold their fire. Our moment of peace has shattered.
“#3, get in the air!” Mud shouts. “Take the controls and pull back on the black handle!” I do not hesitate to slip into the pilot seat and do as he says. The ship and cage rises upwards, out of harms way. Mud drags Cirrina across the roof, away from the threat, with his weapon pointed at the enemy. Cirrina’s brother and sister are in the front of the pack. I circle around so that I am near Mud and Cirrina. Then I set it to self hover again and move over to the edge so that I can see the others.
“Hey!” I call down to Mud.
“Not so fast!” a voice says from behind the Octarians. “I have something you may want.” I stare in horror as Ryan steps into the open, holding two syringes full of yellow liquid. Behind him, Callie and Marie are bound, bruised, and covered in Octarian ink, led by two Octarians each.
“How did you escape?!” Mud asks. I dread what he might say.
Ryan smirks. “When you attacked me and my crew, one of them escaped. They came here, planned a rescue, ambushed your team, and caught these two ladies. Now, if you want them back, you’ll need to give us back the Great Zapfish.”
“What about the others? What did you do with the rest of our team?” growls Mud.
“The other three punks got away, but we scared them good,” he grins evilly. “By now, they should be cowering in Inkopolis.”
Mud had dragged Cirrina across the roof, but now they are out of roof. I notice Cirrina’s siblings are smirking and I hate it.
“Why should I give you the fish?” inquires Mud. “You broke the treaty. Not once, but many times over. If anything, you guys owe us.
“That treaty was nothing but a cover,” Ryan drawls, “and you know that!” The Octos holding Callie push her to the ground beside Ryan, who holds her in place roughly and points one of the syringes at her neck. The girl looks up at Mud fearfully. “You have fifteen seconds to give us back the Zapfish or she dies.
I’m startled when Mud’s voice whispers through my headset. “#3, can you hear me?”
“Y-yes. What do I do?”
Cirrina begins to stir.
“Ten seconds!” Ryan yells.
“You need to drop the cage on the Octos, but not until I tell you,” Mud orders softly before turning to his cousins. His voice sounds very pained when he speaks to them. “Blue hills?”
The girls’ faces turn white. Together the say. “Um… red… red sky…”
Cirrina groans and her eyes begin to open.
“Dang,” her sister says to her brother. “I thought she might be dead.”
“Man you guys have no concept of family, do you?” frowns Mud.
The brother crosses his arms. He still has no mask. “She’s just getting what she asked for, like I said earlier.”
“I we do know family. Family that doesn’t betray our nation,” adds the sister as she looks affectionately at her brother… and then at Ryan.
“What’s going on?” Cirrina moans.
“I guess we are her real family then,” say Mud firmly.
Ryan calls out. “Time’s up!”
“NOW #3! DO IT!!!”
I slip into the cockpit and do as he ordered earlier. The cage falls. SMASH!! It lands right on top of the Octarians… but also lands on Callie and Marie. My face goes pale.
“Oh no. What have I done?”
When it hits the roof, the cage splits and, with a few quick shakes, the Great Zapfish is free. He takes to the sky, heading for the top of the cavern. Mud watches it, smiling. “He’ll be fine.”
Cirrina stares at the wreak. Callie and Marie are popped. All that is left of them are two puddles of ink. A few of the Octarians had survived the crash, including Cirrina’s siblings, but Ryan is not among them. The survivors are pinned under the heavy remains of the cage. Although it is no longer charged, it is so heavy that they cannot move.
“Bring the ship down, #3,” commands Mud. He sounds tired. “We’ve worn out our welcome.”
I land the ship, then join the other two. “#1 and #2! I didn’t-. Oh my gosh! I… I…”
Firmly, Mud grabs me by the shoulders. “Hey. HEY! Look at me. You need to focus. #1 and #2 are fine, but we don’t have time to talk about it. Help me carry Cirrina to the ship.”
“I- I can walk,” says Cirrina as she attempts to stand. Suddenly she cries out in pain and drops to the ground again, clutching her side.
I sigh weakly. “No you can’t.”
Mud kneels down, picks her up, and carries her to the ship. “It won’t be long before reinforcements arrive,” he tells us,” so we need to go.” He sets Cirrina gently down behind the seats in the cockpit.
She’s still holding her side, but she manages to crack a smile. “Yeah, finally. I’m tired of this place.” I don’t speak.
Mud smiles at her then looks back at the trapped Octolings. “… dang it. Get this thing in the air! I’ll be right back!” He turns around and goes to pull the Octarians free. They are too hurt to fight. He has nothing to fear.
I do as he told me. I have no will to argue.
One by one, Mud pulls them out. It takes a few minutes, but, eventually, he frees them all. Without saying a word, the boy super jumps back onto the flying saucer. “Home, please and thank you.” Then he joins Cirrina.