Spyke starts to go with them as they carry Splat to the hospital, but stops when he sees me. The Urchin pulls #2 aside. They speak, she nods, and the two separate. She goes with them and he returns to me.
I look up at Spyke as he stands in front of me. He kneels down. Slowly, he pulls my hood down and takes off my shades. A smile crosses his face.
“Hey, Spyke. I’m back.”
Suddenly he puts his arms around me and pulls me into a tight hug. I gasp as a burst of pain shoots through me. He lets me go.
“Love, are you ok?” He looks at me concerned.
“No,” I tell him. I’m doubled over and cringing. “I- I was held in a prison and they tried to get information out of me… then when we were escaping I got electrocuted by the Great Zapfish.”
He stares at me. “You need-”
I cut him off. “No. Please. I- I don’t want to go to a hospital. I’ll be fine… I just…”
“Well… Let’s go home so that I can look you over at least.” He picks me up and the two of us return home. When we get there, he sets me down on the couch. Then Spyke obtains the first aid kit while I take off my hoodie and singed armor. “Alright. Let’s see whot we have here.”
Spyke sits and I turn so that my back is to him. Carefully he lifts the back of my shirt… I hear him gasp. “Whot… did they use on you?”
I swallow hard. “A whip.”
My back is covered in red cuts and scars and welts. The edges of the wounds are scorched from where I got electrocuted. Shock burns are spread out over me in other places. Dried blood cakes spots of my back.
Spyke sighs and gets to work cleaning me up. “I wish you would be more careful.”
“I’m sorry. I promise to be more careful in the future… by the way, Spyke? … Splat and Mud both know now… what I’ve done.”
He stops. I hear him take a deep breath. “Ok. It’s for the best you know?”
“… I know.”
A few minute of silence pass between us. Spyke cleans the wounds and applies ointment to them. As he finishes up on one of the burns, he realizes our kit is out of bandages. He tells me to wait while he gets more from upstairs.
During the time he is gone, the door bell rings. I painfully make my way to it. To my surprise, Mud stands there looking at our place in surprise. I grin at his expression.
We live in a very very nice subdivision and how house is amazing. Oh, Spyke is super rich by the way.
“Mud? Hey, what are you doing here?” I ask.
“I- uh- wow. Nice place. When #2 gave me the address I thought she was squiding.”
I laugh. “Nope. Come on in.” I turn and lead him inside. He follows me. “Spyke! One of the agents is here!”
I take Mud into the living room. He spots the first aid kit instantly. “You doing ok?”
“I’m fine. Spyke is fixing me up.”
Spyke comes in with a roll of bandages. “Hello squido.”
“Hey,” Mud says. “Er, I bring a update on #3.”
“How is she?” I inquire. Spyke lifts the back of my shirt again and starts bandaging me up. Mud stands, walking over to get a look a my wounds.
“I just talked with the others,” he tells us. “She’s a bit beat up, but she should be fine. We did find out that she wears the Octarian symbol on… everything. What’s with that?”
I shrug. “Meh. I think it’s cause of me. I still wear it sometimes and we share clothes occasionally.”
He laughs. “Well, she- woah. Cirrina your back!” A groan escapes me. “Why didn’t you say anything?!”
“Meh. It wasn’t important,” I answer.
“Not important?! Are you insane?!” exclaims the boy.
He groans. “You have so much to learn…”
Spyke looks up from his work. “You two stop. Cirrina has already promised to be more careful. She’s going to be fine, but she needs to rest for a bit.”
We look at the ground sheepishly. A few minutes of idle chit chat pass before Spyke finishes with the bandages. As the Urchin puts things away, Mud stands.
“Anyway, I really should go. The girls will be by later to check on you.” He smiles at me. “It was a pleasure meeting and working with you.”
I smile back. “Same. Thanks for rescuing me.”
“Don’t mention it.” He pauses at the door. “Oh, tell the others I’m heading back to the valley. Things are probably going to get really intense soon.”
This catches me off guard. “Wait, what?”
He looks back at me. “I need to cover our tracks and make sure the Octarians don’t do anything. Chances are, they’re already crawling all over the valley looking for us.”
I don’t like that thought. “Great,” I say sarcastically. “Yeah. I’ll tell them…”
“Thanks! See ya soon!”
I return to the couch and flop down on my stomach. My back aches. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Spyke giving me a… weird and suspicious look. I turn away, muttering, “Oh shut up.”
A few hours later, I’m shaken awake from my nightmares. I open my eyes. Marie is there.
“Oh,” I say groggily. “Hey, #2. Where are the others?”
“HQ. We’re all gonna meet there for and after mission pizza dinner,” she tells me eagerly. “They sent me to get you.”
“Awesome! I could go for some pizza!”
Soon, we join the others at HQ. I’m not hurting near as bad as I was earlier, but I’m still sore. We all meet in the big lunch room. #1, #4, #5, and #6 are all there. Callie and Marie stand in front of us. Everyone holds a cup of soda.
“The doctor says that #3 should be fine, but she needs to rest,” Marie announces.
“In other news,” begins Callie, “the mission was a success! The Zapfish is back home and Mud and #3 managed to rescue Cirrina from Fort Stronghold! Great job team!” A round of cheers goes up from the agents.
Suddenly, Marie’s voice gets serious. “Hold on. Where is Mud?”
Then I remember. “Oh! I was supposed to tell you. He headed back to Octo valley earlier. Said he’s gonna clear our tracks.”
“He’s what!?” #1 exclaims. “He can’t do that now! Cirrina, why didn’t you stop him?!”
“What did I do?!” I ask, raising my hands in front of me.
#2 comes to my defense. “How was she supposed to know? That doesn’t matter. We need to stop him!”
#1 nods and turns to us. “Listen, Mud just relived the worst day of his life and he’s an emotional wreck. He hasn’t been thinking straight since we got back. We need to stop him from doing something stupid!”
“He seemed ok when we were on the way back,” points out #6, confused.
Marie shakes her head. “Mud doesn’t show his bad emotions. He’s always been a goof because he shoves his anger and sadness deep down. When it gets to be too much, he explodes!”
“What do we do!?” inquires #4.
“If we know Mud,” Marie says thoughtfully, “then there are three places he would be. His hide out, one of his sniping spots, or patrolling the streets by the old temple.”
Callie nods. “I’ll call Grandpa and see if he went there!”
“Everyone suit up!” orders Marie sharply. “The mission is not over yet. Not until we bring everyone home!”
I speak up shyly. “Am I included in this?” My position in the agency is very odd. Up till now, I’d only ever worked with Splat and occasionally Callie or Marie. Plus I am injured… but they don’t know that. I firmly believe they will tell me to stay behind.
Marie surprises me by saying, “Of course you are!”
“Perfect!” I grin and hop up.
Callie walks up. “I just talked to Gramps. He hasn’t seen him. He’s going to check his hideout.”
“Good,” says Marie. “That leaves us the sniping spots and the old temple.”
Soon we are all ready to go. For the first time ever, I am wearing traditional agents gear. It feels weird. I notice that #4 is wearing a different kind of agent gear than the rest of us. His looks way more comfortable.
“Ok, here is the plan,” Agent #1 begins. “#4 and #5, you will go with #2. #6 and Cirrina will go with me.”
“We will go to his sniping spots while #1’s team will check the temple. Any questions?” asks Marie. When no one has any, she says, “Great! Let’s go!”
The two teams split up and head back into the valley, hoping one of them will find the missing agent.
Now, I have never really met six, as I have pointed out numerous times. This make things really awkward. I like quiet, but the walk through the valley is almost two hours long, so small talk is inevitable. After a few tense minutes, #6 speaks.
“So how long have you known #3?” she asks me.
“Well…” I begin thoughtfully, “if I am not mistaken she and I will have known each other for exactly five years on Sunday.”
Her eyes widen. “Oh wow. How did you guys meet? If you don’t mind my asking.”
“Well, the short version is I saved her life when she fought Dj. Octavio, then she gave me lunch, and I broke into her kitchen so that I could give back her lunch box! That’s our first meeting in a nutshell.”
“The heck kind of meeting is that?” laughs #6.
“A very odd one,” I admit. “We were both pretty nervous at first, but we got along real quick.”
“That’s good. #3 says you guys seem like the ultimate team when you are out in the field. Now that I’ve met you, I can easily believe it.”
I chuckle. “Heh. Thanks kid. I’m really glad I met Splat. I hope she’ll be ok…”
#6 points out, “It’s what the doctor said. I hope he’s right.”
“I don’t trust doctors anymore,” I scowl. “They said my mom would be totally fine. They were either wrong or lying.”
“The doctors are pretty good at what they do,” says #6. “I’d say she’s in good hands.”
“Still… after my parent, I prefer to stay out of the hands of a doctor.”
Cautiously #6 asks the question. “What happened?”
“They were wounded in battle,” I tell her.
I continue. “My siblings and I were told they would be fine. Both died.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” #6’s tone is sympathetic.
I sigh. “That was a long time ago… so much has happened since then.”
She and I keep talking off and on for the rest of the trip. I don’t speak anymore about my family or past though. Suddenly, #1 breaks into our conversation. “Heads up guys. We are almost there.”
The “temple” is a massive white building with a dome on the top. Although it is not very tall, it is quite long. The doors are just as impressive as the structure, with six tall matching pillars in front of a door. The temple is on a small hill, so wide, stone steps lead to the doors.
#6 and I stare in awe.
“Wow, this place is… big!” the girl next to me gasps.
“The heck is this place?” I ask. “I’ve never been here.”
#1 looks over at us. “To be honest, we don’t really know. Mud thinks it was a place where people would go to make sacrifices to their gods, but even he question that idea sometimes. The Octarians sometimes use it as a checkpoint or camp. We’ve found lots of stock piles here before.”
Suddenly, agent #2’s voice comes over the radio. “Guys, can you hear me?”
“Loud and clear!” answers #1.
“We looked in Mud’s usual sniping spots, but he’s not there. We’re going to the temple. We will be there soon.”
#1 nods. “Ok. Thanks.”
“He must be here then,” I say softly.
“Let’s hope so,” says agent #1. “Who knows what kind of trouble he’s in.”
Sadly, I mutter under my breath. “I’m starting to feel guilty for not knowing to restrain him.”