I can hear others in the darkness. Inklings who came to this Splatfest for a pleasant night of battles and dancing and music… Inklings who know nothing of the incoming threat and nothing of the enemy. It’s my job – no – our job to protect them, no matter what condition we are in.
As we exit into the night, the city is plunged into a total black out. “What in the world?!” gasps #6. I doubt she has seen Inkopolis in a total blackout before. I have… once.
“Wh- what’s going on?!” I hear a girl cry. Others are taking up question, asking it over and over. “What’s happening?!” “Why have we lost power?” “Why is this happening?!” Others are calling out names, looking for their friends and families in the darkness.
I think of my guardian, who was out here while I was inside. I become very scared and cold inside. “Spyke?!” I cry, “Where are you?!”
“Agents,” a voice behind me says sharply, “are you here? #3, is that you?”
I gasp as I look around. “Yes!”
“Awe, sweet!” says the voice, “I was looking for you guys everywhere.” The figure steps into the moonlight. He is dressed in a dark blue hoodie and his face is covered by a gas mask.
“Who are you?” I ask, though I think I already know the answer. I lean over to #4 and whisper, “Can you locate Spyke and make sure he’s ok?”
“It’s me, Mud. I need all your help.”
“I thought it was you.” I reply to the figure. My mind is working rapidly. Do I trust him? Something I said before pops into my head, making my mind up for me. “I promised to be your partner if you needed me. What’s up?”
Mud’s answer makes my stomach churn. “The great Zapfish was just stolen by Octarians. They pulled a daring raid when we were least expecting it and now they’re trying to make a get away by boat. So I need your help to stop them in their tracks.”
“Point me in their direction and I’m there.” I say without hesitation.
“Go to dock C2. Look for an old tarp under the dock. Everything you need is there.”
I stare at him. “You- I- what?!” I realize there is no time for this, “Oh, never mind! We need to have a serious conversation later! #5!” I point to my fellow agent. “I need your help; and #4!” I point to another, “I need you to find Spyke and make sure he’s ok. Once you do that, help the other people of Inkopolis calm down! Agent #6,” I turn to my last teammate and whisper to her, “go with Mud. Help him and find out what you can.”
I look back to Mud. “The agents are ready to go.”
“Great, I’ll explain the rest when you find the tarp.” Mud turns to leave, but stops when he sees #6 following him, “Agent, what are you doing? Go with the others.”
“Agent #3 told me to go with you, so here I am.” She says truthfully.
“… well, perhaps I could use you. Ever raided a ship before?”
“Come on #5.” I take his hand. I know exactly where to go.
On the way to the dock, #5 perks up and says, “That’s the guy that saved you?!”
I nod. “That’s him. Know him?”
“I don’t think so, but it’s hard to tell with the mask on.”
“I forgot he was wearing one. I recognized his voice, so I knew it was him.” We both fall quiet. That’s one of the reasons I chose #5 to go with me. He knows that pointless chatter makes me nervous in stressful situations. #4 and #6 don’t understand that. That’s why I sent them on other tasks. Those tasks are best for them. They would be difficult for the rest of us… I hate the way my mind wanders during times like this. I need to focus, even if I don’t want to.
#5 breaks my thoughts. “Where is this tarp?”
“Over here.” We have arrived at the docks. I show #4 and lift the tarp.
There are the guns from before, right where I left them. However, there’s something else too. Beside the weapons are three sets of agent headsets. “Looks like someone is prepared.” #5 notes.
“Looks like it.”
#5 turns on his headset and, right away, it sparks to life. He hears Mud’s voice. “^… in, come in #3. Are you there #4? Hello?^”
I turn mine on too and I hear #6. “^Hey! Are your mics on? Do you think they found the stash yet?^”
“^They should have found it by now. Guys? Are you there?^”
“Yeah, we’re here.” replies #5.
“What now?” I ask. #5 bends down and picks out a sniper gun. I still have mine from battling.
“^ Ok, in a little bit you should see a boat coming down the river. It’s the Octarians who stole the Great Zapfish. Agent #6 and I are going to sneak on board. We need you to provide sniper cover so we can find the fish and get it back.^”
“Youkai! Ready, #5?”
“As ready as I’ll get.” he tells me grimly.
“All right. Let’s do this.”
“^Hold fast agents! Here comes the ship. Wait for us to board it before you start shooting.^”
I nod, then realize he can’t see me. Grabbing #5’s hand I lead him swiftly to large stacks of crates, next to a shed. We climb them and soon are standing o the roof of the building. “Can you see them?” I ask my companion.
“Not yet… it’s too dark. Oh! There! To the right. I see it!”
“Right.” I repeat as I look around and find something I can use as a stand. Once I find something I set it on the roof then rest my gun on it. I lay on my stomach next my gun. Carefully, I take aim.
“^We are almost there…^” I hear Mud say, “^I got you! … shh, one’s coming… good shot.^”
“It’s suspenseful when you can only hear them, eh’?” #5 comments tersely. He stand beside me, holding his gun. I look up at him. Had anyone else said that I would have thought it as a small attempt to make the situation seem lighter… but not him. #5 is dead serious. I can tell by his voice, his face, his posture and stance, and just because I know his personality. He’s nervous…
Mud’s command breaks my thoughts. “^Agents, fire at will! Take out anyone on the decks!^”
“Yatte mimashou!” I exclaim as I look back though my scope. The words of an ancient language have, again, escaped my lips with me only barely noticing. If it were either of the other two agents, I would not have said them, but #5 always seems pretty chill with my ability.
“The two on the top of the deck.” #5 points them out, “Let’s take them out together!”
“Three… two… one!”
We both fire, taking out our targets. “Too easy.”
“^We’re coming up to the bridge. Can you clear it from there?^”
“Easily.” I tell Mud.
#5 squints into the darkness. “Looks like there’s about five hostiles in there.”
“We can take it.” I assure him as I aim and charge again.
“Alright, here we go.”
“Ready… ichi… ni… san!”
Both of us squids fire and we each nail our targets. However, the Octarians get spooked and run for the door… the same one that Mud and #6 are hiding behind. I gasp. “Hurry! Mud! Octarians coming your way. Get ready!” But it’s too late. The Octarians burst through the door and out of sight. We hear our comrades.
“^#6, look out! … wat … down! … eep …^”
I can’t take this. “Mud! Are you alright? … #6, come in!”
“^… Yah… we’re good. Shaken, but still here.^”
I sigh in relief. “Thank goodness…”
“^I think they were more surprised than we were,^” #6 chuckles.
I don’t know how she can think any of this is funny. “What should we do now?”
“^We need to search the hull of the ship. Chances are that’s where the fish is. We’re headed there now!^”
“We’ll be there, fast as we can!”
“No, stay there!” Mud orders as I start to stand up, “If anyone fallows us down there, we will depend on you covering us.^”
I hesitate, but what he is saying makes sense. “…ok.”
“^Come on #6, watch your back!^” We watch as the two squids move slowly to the hull and meet little resistance. #5 sits down next to me and puts a hand on my back. He starts stroking me. It’s nice and comforting.
“Feeling better?” he asks me with a small, forced smile. I nod. He seems to know exactly what I need when I’m stressed…
Suddenly we hear our comrades. “^You know,” #6 says, “I was expecting more Octarians than this.^”
“^Yah, they may be trying to ambush us. Stay on your guard.^”
“Keep an eye out.” I tell #5.
He nods. “Right. I’ll look for anything I can shoot at.”
I glance up at him. He must be… really worried… He never says things like that… I sigh. This night has us all frazzled. We watch and wait.
“^We are about to enter the hull, in three… two… one… Go!^” There’s a long silence before we hear Mud’s exclamation. “^What?! No no no!^”
“^Oh, you have got to be squiding me!^” cries #6.
#5 and I share an alarmed look. “What’s going on?! …. guys?!”
“^It’s not here! The Great Zapfish is not here! The ship is full of little Zapfish! This was a decoy ship!!”
“YOU GOTTA BE SQUIDIN’ ME!”
“^That explains why there were so few Octarians.^”
“Yeah.” agrees #5.
“^Guys,” Mud says grimly, “^we need to regroup, meet at the docks. Six and I will bring the ship in so we can search it over. There has to be a clue here somewhere.^”
“Roger that.” I say as #5 helps me to my feet.
Moments later the ship was in port and the agents regrouped. #6 and I embrace like we always do after a mission where one or both of us was in danger. I know this mission was pretty low key, but it was still stressful. #5 looks on calmly and pats our heads once we separate.
“Are you guys ok?” he asks her.
“Yah, just disappointed.” replies #6.
“We should go back and tell #4 what happened.” I suggest, “I also want to make sure my guardian is ok.”
Mud agrees. “Good idea. The more help, the better.” We numbered agents begin walking back to the plaza, but Mud starts back to the boat. “I’ll stay and look for clues. You go ahead.”
I stop and look back. All the doubt I had about him returns to my mind. Again I ask myself the question, Can I trust him? “…. Are you sure?”
He puts a hand on his hip. “Our enemy has a half hour lead on us. We will need anything that can tell us how to catch then and we need it fast. This boat is our best lead, so I’m going to search it from top to bottom. It’s probably a good idea if you guys helped out back in Inkopolis. People may have been hurt in the attack. I can handle this mess.”
I’m still hesitant… but I need to give in. He make good points. “Ok, but you gotta come find me when you’re done. There are some things I’ve been wanting to talk to you about.”
My group heads for Inkopolis. On the way, #6 talks about the boat raid. #5 and I are both focused on our own thoughts and say nothing… Until #6 gets right up next to my ear.
“Hey!” she says sharply.
I gasp, startled. “Huh?!”
“Are you ok?” #6 asks, “You look really pale again…” #5 stops and examines me.
“You’re shaking.” He points out, “#3, what’s wrong?”
I look away from them. My mind had wandered to the time I fought DJ. Octavio. That had started with the stealing of the zap fish… and had nearly cost me my life. I’m scared.
#5 frowns when I don’t answer then he puts his arms around me. “It’s ok.” he tells me, “We’re all scared. But we have to focus. We’ve got a mission to take care of. We can help protect each other and you, but you’ve got to lead us… ok?”
I nod. He’s right. I cannot let all of my fears control me. #5 lets go and we start walking again. This time though, we are all quiet.