On the Ethical Treatment of Tentaspies
We always knew that something lurked in the water, watching us, but for the longest time the Tentaspy living beneath our sewers remained a complete mystery, few of us ever catching a glimpse of him. Over time, though, it became clear to us that the Tentaspy kept to himself and wasn't interested in our little war games, so on the whole we steered clear of one another.
The first time I met the Tentaspy in person, I was helping my teammates clear the battlefield after yet another day of intense fighting. Most of them salvaged for broken parts, while us Medics were in charge of disposing of the bodies or saving any survivors that we came across--the enemy never stuck around long enough to be executed or captured, and many times I would come across the remains of one bearing obvious signs of suicide.
We had all but cleared the area and were packing up to go when I swore I heard something from the sewers. Without even thinking I ran toward the sound, ignoring the panicked shouts of my colleagues.
At first I had thought him to be an enemy Spy--he looked like one from the waist up, and he was lying half-out of the water, bleeding to death from a piece of shrapenel embedded in his chest. By now I was operating on full Medic instincts--I think I was also rationalizing to myself that the others would be interested in questioning him--so I rolled up my sleeves and snapped on a fresh set of gloves.
To my surprise, my patient stirred when I neared, but otherwise stayed where he was. "Don't move, you've been seriously injured." I kneeled down next to him and began to do what I could to stem the bleeding while I assessed his overall state of health. The fabric of his suit felt strange, rougher than any Spy I ever knew, but once again I pushed my concerns aside and concentrated on helping him.
He watched me work without a word until I brought out a syringe. That was when I noticed the tentacles--it would have been impossible not to, given that he could have crushed me to death right then and there.
By now the other Medics had worked up the nerve to follow me and saw the scene, but I noticed them before they could do anything rash and indicated for them to stay calm. I then put a firm hand on the limb wrapped around my body and, in my most authoritative voice, asked the creature to let go. While he did not, he also made no further move to constrict.
"This is a painkiller," I explain to him, but I don't bring the needle close again. I point to the piece of metal still in his chest. "It's to help me get this out."
He regarded me with open suspicion, snatching the syringe with a feeler and from me and crushing it, tasting the medicine with his tongue. Then, satisfied that I was telling the truth, he made no move to resist when I brought forth a second syringe, and though I saw him flinch when I pressed it in, his body language remained lax.
With one of the other Medics training a stream of healing energy into the Tentaspy, I eased the shrapnel out and gave it a few cursory stitches, holding it closed with my hands while the Medigun did most of the work. Giving him one more examination to make sure he had no other injuries--ah, it wasn't it suit at all, it was his bare skin, but it still looked like the classic Spy pinstripe--I smiled at him and patted him on the shoulder. "There we go. Good as new. You'll feel a bit fuzzy until the painkiller wears off, but otherwise, I think you'll do just fine."
He uncoiled from my body, causing me to wince when I realized that he'd cracked at least one rib. Then, after he'd tested his movements, he nodded at me with what I interpreted to be in thanks, dove into the water and disappeared.
The second time happened months later, well after I'd all but forgotten about our "neighbor", when I was chased into the sewers by an overenthusiastic Pyro who didn't stop bum-rushing me, flamethrower going full blaze, even as I filled him full of needles and managed to get a few stabs in with my Ubersaw for good measure. By the time the Pyro dropped dead, I was collapsed in waist deep water--or at least I prayed to God that it was water--trying to call for help.
I was too out of it to remember the exact details, but for days afterward I had dreams of being carried by strong arms, and hearing a not quite human voice unaccustomed to speaking words telling me to hold on. The Demoman who was at my side along with another Medic when I came to swore up and down that he had seen the Tentaspy emerge from the deep, carrying me in his arms like one might a sleeping child, and left me on the stairs leading up to the base.
The third time I crossed paths with the Tentaspy, I almost died due to my carelessness and ignorance. Winter was turning into spring, and I and a few like-minded neat freaks took it upon ourselves to clean out the gutters so that we wouldn't have water seeping into the base every time it rained. The retention pond behind the base in particular was choked with leaves and posed a serious flooding hazard. However, since the water was far too murky for any of us to go down there even with scuba gear, I took to fishing bits of debris out with a long rake.
I was attacked without warning--I didn't even realize that he had risen out of the water until he immobilized me. I cried out as I felt him snap my arm in half like a twig, and in seconds my lungs began to burn from a lack of air.
The fury on his face evaporated when he recognized me. He eased me to the ground, running his feelers over me as if in an apology. As I worked air back into my lungs and managed to wrap my arm in a makeshift sling, he slapped the water in a peculiar rhythm and a second Tentaspy rose out of the water.
I couldn't quite make out all of the subtle differences between the two of them, but it was obvious from the way they interacted with each other that they were a couple. "You nest here," I realized, feeling like a complete moron.
He nodded, his hands pantomiming a clutch of eggs, and then pointed to the deep end of the pool.
"And you're a father!" If I weren't so happy for him, I would have broken out in a cold sweat all over. I got off easy, considering that I had put his babies in danger. "Congratulations!"
Of course, the pond became off-limits after that. The Scouts would often pester me to please, please pretty please show them where the baby Tentaspies were, but I wasn't privy to that information either and I knew better than to disrupt the happy family.
"I don't believe you for a minute!" One of the Scouts huffed over dinner after I shot him down yet again. "You're friends with that freak, aren't you?"
"Despite what you believe, we are not 'friends'. He simply tolerates me more then the rest of you idiots." I stabbed at my meat with my fork, wishing I could pound some common sense into that empty head. "Might I remind you that a grown Tentaspy is more than capable of ripping you limb from limb? Even if I had any idea where they live, do you think I'd tell you just so you can satisfy your infantile curiosity?"
The whole summer went by without a single Tentaspy sighting, though bodies and bits of metal were still always disappearing from the battlefield. It wasn't until the days started getting shorter and colder again that the Tentaspy appeared one night while I was assigned the patrol and shoved into my hands a tiny, wriggling mass. With broken English and animated hand motions he explained that his partner wanted to find better pastures, and that he didn't think the runt of the litter would survive the trip.
"Too small," he sighed, running his thumb along the infant Tentaspy's back, no doubt communicating to it that I was now its caretaker, because it settled against my fingers and began nuzzling them.
"Will I ever see you again?" I asked, wondering how in the world I was going to handle raising a Tentaspy.
He shrugged. "Someday, maybe."
The baby Tentaspy became the darling of the team, as well as its unofficial mascot. (Unofficial, because all of us knew better than to breathe a word about this to our overseers. To our surprise, we discovered that the enemy had their own share of Tentaspy sightings and agreed with our position on keeping the creatures' existence a secret.) We argued for days about what to name him; in the end, we settled on "Bob", as none of us could agree on anything else.
Bob turned out to be much easier to take care of than I had feared. He was already working his way up to solid foods by the time his father decided to let me adopt him, so he ate what we ate--and with so many of us doting on him, I always had to keep a careful eye him to make sure that he wasn't being given anything that might make him ill. He learned to converse with us in fluent English, and his proximity to us meant that he also picked up a smattering of French, German, and Russian, and he began to imitate all of our voices so well that even the Spies could be fooled on occasion.
In no time at all Bob outgrew the tank I kept him in, so we moved him to the pond where he hatched. He took great delight to exploring every nook and cranny of the waterways, and even managed squeeze past the fence a few times. This made me all the more worried about him, but Bob proved to be a natural at stealth. Not that he didn't ever come back without injuries, but those were always patched right up.
About a year and a half, the Tentaspy returned alone for a visit, and he looked quite proud indeed to see Bob swimming up to him as fast as his tentacles could take him. They hugged, both in the human and octopus fashion. Then, with Bob providing a translation--the intricacies of Tentaspy communication was, of course, beyond my feeble understanding--I was able to find out how the rest of the Tentaspy's family was doing.
"Not well, I'm afraid." The Tentaspy sighed. "We've lost quite a few to men who were out to kill us or take us away in cages. Even the Spycrabs are being pushed out of their homes."
"Why don't you move back here, then?" I suggested. "You know you're always welcome."
"Yes, but this place is too small for all of us to live here without being noticed." His face darkened. "I've heard the stories of what happens when one of us gets captured."
Some days I had to wonder which one of us were the real monsters. "I wish there was something I could do."
The Tentaspy smiled and gave Bob another hug. "You already are, and doing a great job of it, I must say."
In the Tentaspy's next visit, he showed up missing an arm and overall had a much more haggard appearance to him. "What happened?" Bob asked in English for my benefit as we helped the Tentaspy into the sewers.
"It was horrible. I don't know how many of us were able to escape with our lives." He accepted a cigarette from one of the Spies and lit up, relishing the nicotine. "Soon we, too, may be gone from this place."
"Not if I have anything to say about it!" By now, I had done my research. The plight of the Spycrabs were being made known to the public, and many support groups had sprung up in an effort to protect the creatures. "You're looking at the president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Tentaspies."
Bob convinced his father to spend the winter with us, and for lack of a better name we called him "Pops" along with Bob. Pops still preferred to remain aloof, though at Bob's request he would at least eat with us and converse through him. It was during one of these meals that I got a chance to ask him the question that had been on my mind for some time.
"When you found me in the sewers all that time ago, why did you save me?"
Pops blinked at the question. "I owed you my life--I had to repay the debt."
"No, there's more than that," I insisted. "I mean, you trusted me with Bob!"
"Of course I would. I watched you help your brood-mates many times before you ever came to my aid. And when you saw me, you didn't treat me like some sort of monster."
The trust he showed for me made me feel a bit self conscious. "Of course I wasn't going to do that. I have an Oath to uphold."
When the ice melted, Bob decided that he wanted to see more of the world with his father. "I'll write every day," he promised when he said his goodbyes.
I gave his head a playful ruffle. "And how are you going to mail those letters, you silly cephalopod?"
He blushed purple. "I--I'll think of something!"
"Don't let him get his fool self killed," I stage-whispered to Pops.
"I'm his father," Pops answered back. "If he does anything stupid, I'll end him myself."
With that questionable reassurance, Bob and Pops disappeared into the depths. While I did keep myself up nights wondering how they were doing, thanks to the efforts of PETT and other similar groups things had gotten much safer for Tentaspies, and Bob somehow managed to send a few postcards every so often. He even met himself a nice female Tentaspy and promised that he would come back as soon as any babies became old enough to travel.
We were holed up in Dustbowl playing an exhausting marathon round that saw the middle control point see-sawing between us and the other side when Bob sent the first pictures of his offspring. The ensuing boost in morale was enough to carry us to a win and move into an area with waterways, so we dialed back the aggression and counted the days to being able to see Bob again.
Bob showed up in style, arriving with every member of his extended clan he could find--including some of Pops' relatives. "Hey, PETT President, I heard you wanted to make a fund-raising calendar or something?" He called, waving at me as I stared slack-jawed at the small army's worth of Tentaspies. "So I got you some volunteers! What do you think?"