Agents #1 and #2 stand before us. To my left #6 stands in a slanted pose and her arms folded. #4 is on my right, looking nervous. Finally #5 has positioned himself just behind me and rested his hands on my shoulders. Our leaders look us over for a moment. Me and my squad. I’m scared that may not be able to call them that any more.
“We think it’s time to tell you about Mud.” says Agent #2 seriously.
“Finally.” #6 mutters quietly.
“Mud,” begins #1, is our best agent, even better than us.” She motions to herself and her cousin, “Captain chose him specifically to do the work that was too dangerous for anyone else. He’s been around longer than any of you and, in some way, he’s helped with every mission we’ve gone on.”
“What?!” My mind instantly goes to the many missions that my friend and I have gone on together. If he’s found a way to help with every mission than he must know about her… right? Only he seemed genuinely surprised when I told him about her…
#2 nods and takes up the explanation. “The reason why we didn’t tell you about him is because we can’t let the enemy know about him. He is our secret weapon if all goes south. If you were captured and talked, they would expect him to come after you. Then how would we get you out?”
As I listen, things start to make sense. It’s all coming together.
“He’s our biggest secret.” admit #1, “In, fact Mud’s not even his real name. He made us promise to never tell of it.”
A chuckle escapes me. “I figured it wasn’t. Who names their kid after wet dirt?”
“I know right.” grins #2. It seems she also this the code is strange, “Anyways, Mud spends most of his time in Octo Valley, doing different missions and stuff. He knows the valley better than anyone… but Mud has different jobs than we do.”
“Can you tell us what they are?” I ask eagerly, “Or is that classified?”
“Let’s just say, he’s not just an agent.” says #1 slyly, “He’s our assassin.”
My eyes widen and my mind goes instantly to my brother and friend. I glance at the agents by my sides. They also look shocked. I can’t see #5, but I feel his grip on my shoulders tighten.
#2 ignores our surprise. “He is the one who goes in to take down Octarian leaders.” she tells us, “Sometimes that means for good.”
“Before the Splatfest,” puts in #1, “he was doing security. He found out that the Octarians planned to launch an assault during the festival. He figured out what their escape route was and planned for an ambush. You guys know the rest.”
I’m quiet. This is a lot of info to take in, and #2 is talking again.
“But, after all that, he took off to find out where they took the Great Zapfish and the phone call was the last we heard from him. Make sense so far? Or are you guys confused?”
“I understand, but I have a question.” I say.
#1 nods. “Go ahead.”
“Does he go after only Octarians or does he go after Inkling traitors.”
“You know…” #2’s voice is thoughtful, “I don’t know. It’s never happened before. I guess he could, but it would make more sense to catch them alive.” Well, that relieves a little bit of my worry… but not much. At least he won’t be killing my brother. “Well I think that’s everything… Anymore questions?”
This time, it’s Agent #6 who speaks. “I have one. How old is he?”
“He’s older that you guys and about a year younger than myself.” replies #1.
This surprises us. “Oh! I thought he was our age.” exclaims #6.
“Me too.” I admit, “Still, you too aren’t that much older than us, are you?”
“We’re about four, maybe five years older than you guys.” #1 answers and looks to her cousin for confirmation on that.
“That sounds about right.” nods #2.
“Oh, I didn’t realize that.” I confess.
#1 waves my comment aside. “Yah, Mud’s just short, so he looks younger.”
I think for a moment. “Hm. So, anything else we should know?”
#2 shakes her head. “That’s all the major stuff, but we should get started on finding him. If you want you can ask him yourself.”
I smile. “Ok.”
#4 is also grinning as he says, “Where do we start?”
“With the paper and knife #3 has. Where did you find them?” asks #2.
I now realize that I do not remember. “Uh, I think it was… up near…” I look over at #4.
“I think it was the bridge.” he tells me.
“It probably was. I have a bad memory.”
“Can I see the paper and knife?” requests Agent #1.
“Of course.” I hand the items over to her and she examines them carefully.
Then she passes them to her cousin while asking, “Map? What does that mean?” I point out the dot in the back of the paper.
“A blue dot…” #2 snaps her fingers and her face lights up. “#1, it’s a cross code!”
“OH! Of course!”
I raise my eyebrow. “A cross code? I’m sorry, I’m afraid I’m not sure what that is.”
“We need to search the ship!” #2 sharply orders, “Look for a map with lots of colorful pins on it.
“Um, ok!” I have no idea what a cross code is, but I’m not gonna question it. #6 asks if we should split up.
#2 nods. “Good idea. Take a partner and start hunting!”
We separate and I somehow end up with #6. I don’t know how that happened. #5 still had one of his hands on my shoulder, but now he’s gone off.
We’re about to head bellow deck, but, when we open the door, it’s dark. She flips a light switch. Nothing. “Hey!” cries #6, “This ship has no power!”
“Brilliant.” I mumble.
“So?” #2 calls back. She sounds like it’s not a problem.
I let her reply. “So, the lights won’t turn on!”
“Just go get a Zapfish and plug it onto the power supply.” the second leader shouts back, casually.
She and I glance at each other and we head back to get one. #6 starts a conversation. I wish she didn’t always need to fill silence with words.
“It’s a relief that Mud’s on our side after all.” she notes with a smile.
I reply absently. “Yes. It is.”
The agent frowns. “You have something on your mind, don’t you?”
I hesitate before nodding. “What if Mud goes after my brother? What if he attacks Ci- er- my friend by mistake?” I almost slipped up. The other agents can’t know much of anything about her. Only that she exists and is an agent. Not her name. Not her race. Nothing. I must more careful…
#6 looks like she caught my slip, but she says nothing about it. She knows better. However she does say, “Well, the faster we find him the better.” She could be talking about my brother or Mud… she probably means Mud.
After plugging in the Zapfish into the power socket, the ship springs to life. Lights flicker, computer monitors “blip” on, and the dull hum of engines starting up is heard. #6 and I also hear the cheer of our fellow squids, as the search is made much easier with the aid of the lights.
It doesn’t take long before the map is found. We are just finishing up a search through some boxes when #4 lets out a shout. “We found it guys!” Agent #6 takes off running towards the sound of #4’s voice and I am just behind her. Soon, we are at their location.
The map is on the wall in the radar room. It’s bag and full of colorful thumbtacks.
“Good work, #4.” grins Agent #1 and she pats him on the back, “This should show us where he is.”
“So, we need to find a blue one?” I look over the map quickly. While there are plenty of pins to choose from, only four of them are blue pins. I’m confused. “Which one is it?”
#2 gives me a sympathetic half smile. “I guess you guys have never heard of a cross code before.”
“Sorry, I have not.” I admit, my face a little red.
She puts an arm around my shoulders. “You see the blue pins right?” She points to them, “There is one for each direction. North, South, East, and West. If we connect the North one to the South one and do the same with East and West, it forms a cross or an ‘X’. So that means he’s….?” She looks at me, waiting for me to finish her thought.
My face lights up. “So he’s where they cross?!” I exclaim.
“Bingo!” she smiles. She looks proud.
I feel silly. I’m 17 and she’s treating me like a little kid… I guess it’s nice though. I kinda skipped out on childhood and I do kinda like it when I can be a kid again…
#2 is examining the map. “And it looks like they cross at… Salt Spray Rig?”
I take a look. “Yeah, looks like it.”
“Why would he send us there?!” ask #1 in surprise.
“Who knows, but are you guys up for a mission?” #2 inquires, looking at me and the other agents.
“Totally!” I say without thinking.
#6 is excited too. “I’ve been waiting to hear that all month!”
“Excellent!” Now #2 looks really proud of us. “Let’s go suit up back in HQ.”
Hours later, we squids walk into the armory at the agency HQ. #1 tells us our gear orders. “Ok guys, we don’t know what we’re going into, so take whatever you think will be best for you.” There’s a wide variety of gear and weapons. I check the stats on each, choosing to go with complete stealth and speed up. Then I come to the weapons and can’t decide.
The others take a variety of different gear and weapons. #5 comes to me for advice. “What do you think?” he asks. “Should I take the Light Splatling or the Hero Splattershot?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t really use either.” I admit. “I’m torn between the Krack-On Splatroller, my charger, and the Neo Splash-O-Matic.”
“Oh that’s a tuff one. I would go for the sniper out of all that.” Then, looking back at his own sections, he says, mostly to himself, “I guess I’ll take the Splattershot.”
I’m thinking about taking my charger. “I guess that’s a good idea, but I’ll need a little cover because I can’t do close quarter combat with it…”
“Right, I see the problem there.”
“Could you cover me if I take it?”
He looks concerned. “But what if we get split up? What then?”
“Ummm…. maybe I should just use the roller?”
“But what if there’s some long range shooting?” #5 asks. I say nothing to this comment. “Just saying… Your call.”
I think a few minutes. “Does anyone else carry a charger?”
“I think #2 is.” #5 tells me, glancing around.
“… What about a roller?”
“Looks like #6 took one. Agents #1 and #4 are taking Splattershots.”
“Hmmm… I’m going to take my charger.” I say as I pick up the gun and shoulder it. “I’m best with it.”
Agent #5 puts his arm around my shoulder again. “Cool.”
“Ok, guys! Gather around!” calls out #1. We join her and the others. “We don’t know what we’re getting into, but if Mud is asking for help, then it must be serious. Remember to be on your guard at all times. Any questions before we head out?”
I shake my head, but #6 nods. “I have one.” the short girl says.
“What is it?”
“Why are we meeting Mud on an oil rig and not HQ?”
“To be honest,” replies #1, “I’m not sure. All he said was to meet him there and bring supplies for a few days.”
“Wait. A few days?” I ask in surprise, “I didn’t realize it was going to be so long.”
#2 nods in confirmation. “It’s just a possibility. Besides,” she says as she redoes her short, white tentacles in their usual bow, “what else are we gonna do while the power is out?”
I think for a moment. “…. that, I don’t know. Anyway, do you think I could check up with my guardian before we go? I don’t want him to be wondering where I am.” That would be bad. He gets worried sick when me or my friend are gone too long without letting him know what’s up.
“Of course you can.” #2 tells me, understandingly. “In fact, every one of you should go home and tell your families that you will be gone.”
“But remember, no one can know what we’re doing.” puts in #1.
Then #4 asks when we should get to Salt Spray Rig and #2 answers with, “Around 7:00 I think, but no rush.”
I smile. “KK!”
With that, the Inklings leave, all going to their different homes.